February 19, 2023 – Worship

Work for the Good of All – (Galatians 6:7-16)

For the past couple of decades, lots of people ebbed away from the church. The mainline denominations in the United States, and in other countries as well, struggle to avoid such rapid decline, and yet it seems not easy to find possible measures. Church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life. Unfortunately, it is not true anymore.

Some years ago, before the pandemic, the Barna Group researched the state of the church in America. According to the research, 51% of U.S. adults think attending church is “not too” or “not at all” important. More seriously, more than one-third of the Millennial generation (mostly 30 year olds) take an anti-church stance. Substantial majorities of Millennials who don’t go to church say they see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive to others. Similarly, 40% of unchurched Americans do not want to attend church because they think they find God elsewhere.

The research also introduced Jon Tyson, the lead pastor of the Church of the City New York. In his book, Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters, Jon wrote:

“How could the early church capture the imagination of the Roman empire while we, with all our resources and rigor, are slowly losing influence in our culture? The early church leaders didn’t have the things we now consider essential for our faith. They didn’t have official church buildings, vision statements or core values. They had no social media, radio broadcasts or celebrity pastors. They didn’t even have the completed New Testament. Christ-followers were often deeply misunderstood, persecuted, and some gave their lives for their faith. Yet they loved and they served and they prayed and they blessed—and slowly, over hundreds of years, they brought the empire to its knees. They did it through love.”

Pastor Jon’s remarks help us reflect on our own faith journey. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that understanding a system of doctrine or belonging to a religious system is essential for our faith. But it’s not true. What is essential is to live out according to God’s will, and to walk the way Jesus walked. Faith is not confined to the matter of what we believe, but it should be expanded to the matter of how we live out what we believe.

In Galatians 6, Paul says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation” (Galatians 6:15). ‘A new creation’ means being transformed from the former way of life to a new way of life.

In Ephesians 4, Paul says, “Change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit  and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). What Paul tries to address is that being a new person according to God’s image and living a new life is essential for our faith.

For deeper understanding, let’s talk about God’s image for a moment. The book of Genesis witnesses that God created human beings in His image. Among diverse interpretation of ‘God’s image,’ one possible interpretation might be that God’s image means the divine nature. God doesn’t have a specific image like we do. God’s image signifies the divine attributes. Although we can list several divine natures, the central divine nature is love: “God is love!” (1 John 4:8, 16)

In this context, the fact that God created us in His image means that God gave us an ability to love. We are neither omnipotent, nor omnipresent, nor omniscient, as God is. But we are able to love as God has given us an ability to love. Again, God has given every person the ability to love. Not everyone is smart, nor is everyone powerful, but everyone is able to love!

The ability to love is a gift. At the same time, it is our mission; it is our purpose. By creating us in His image, God gave us the ability to love, so that we love others on behalf of God. As Paul says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation,” he tries to encourage us not to be obsessed by religious rules, regulations, and doctrines, but to live out our holy mission, our holy purpose of loving others – loving one another.

My friends, let me tell you that love is not a noun but a verb. Love requires actions. John commands us, “Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth” (1 John 3:18). According to Paul, to love with action means to “work for the good of all” (Galatians 6:10).

A loving heart moves us to work for the good of all. Working for the good with a loving heart is a sign of being a new creation. It is the core of our faith. In the same sense, Paul says in the prior chapter, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith working through love, in other words, faith that is lived out through working for the good of all––this is what Christian living really means.

As I’ve been serving our Port Vue UMC for almost 8 years, I am so grateful to all of our church family members in Christ, because many times I’ve witnessed you living out exactly what Paul commanded to the churches in Galatia.

For the past 8 years, I’ve witnessed you not getting tired of doing good, but working for the good of all whenever you have an opportunity.

  • You’ve been praying hard for those who need your prayer support inside and outside the church.
  • You’ve been working hard to share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ and plant seeds of faith for children, youth and adults inside and outside the church through various ways.
  • You’ve been so generous in giving out your treasures to your church and to those in need far and near.
  • You never stopped helping and serving others in the name of Jesus through various mission and outreach ministries locally and nationally.
  • You see, you never stopped even in the midst of the pandemic and got through it. I am so grateful and proud of you, and I encourage you to keep up the good work.

As you know, our church has been in the discernment process. It has been a very painful and disturbing process. Well, I don’t have to say it in detail… you know what I am talking about, right? We worry about the future of our church… We wonder what will happen to us and our church.

But I can tell you, my friends, no matter how different we are, no matter how chaotic and disturbing our circumstances are, if we continue to live out our faith by serving, praying, and blessing through love, God will strengthen His church, and the church encouraged by the Holy Spirit, will continue to thrive.

We are now living in a time when church attendance in the US and the world continues to decline… in a time, especially when we fear and worry about the future of the church due to what’s going on in our United Methodist Church. But I believe that what we really need to worry about is not the reality of the declining church and not what’s happening in our denomination.

What we really need to worry about is whether or not we live out the core of our faith––faith working through love. I am convinced that if we do not get tired of doing good but work hard for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith, God will strengthen our church and show to the world the power of faith working through love.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.