"Fight for the One Next to You" #83-05
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 4, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Pro-Life, A Fundamental Teaching)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Hebrews 2:14-18
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he, Jesus, shared also in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death....... 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he, Jesus himself, suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The crucified Christ Jesus, He is risen; He is risen, indeed, hallelujah! Amen.
Young Richard decided to join the Marines. He was just a kid, but he wanted to serve in this esteemed and exclusive fraternity. War was raging. He signed up to defend freedom. Right before he signed, he heard that a Marine lived in his neighborhood. So, Richard went, he knocked on his door to see if he could ask him a few questions about the Marine Corps. Archie said sure.
Now, Archie was an old man, now. He sat quietly in a chair and he looked firmly at Richard and said, "Welcome aboard." For the rest of the afternoon, Archie answered every question and even told a few stories. The conversation confirmed Richard's decision.
After boot camp, after Richard made it through the rigors of training, he visited Archie again. Things were even more real now. It was time for Richard to deploy, so Archie gave him some final advice. He looked at him intently and said,
"Richard, there is only one thing that makes a good warrior and that is a man who cares for his fellow man. That is why the Marines do so well at making war. We respect each other. We'd rather die than let down our comrades. I know there are many reasons a young man marches off to war - patriotism, duty, honor, even adventure; but only one reason he actually fights once he is in war. He fights for the man next to him... Marines fight because each Marine acknowledges the loftiest principle of all: he acknowledges and accepts the responsibility of being his brother's keeper. That's why you'll fight too."
"He fights for the man next to him." That is a beautiful statement, isn't it? It is loyal, good, and noble. It moves you to admire such gallantry and even causes you to look at your own life a different way.
First, let me ask you this: "Who's fighting for you? Who's your advocate? Who's the person next to you that you can trust, even entrust your life?"
At the same time, let me ask you...."Who are you fighting for? Who are you advocating for? Who have you taken under your wing as the person you will defend at all costs?" Sadly, these may not be the easiest questions to answer today in our very self-focused, individualistic society. It's easy to feel alone as you face the rigors of all that life brings. It's easy to forget about people around you as you press into your agenda, your ambitions, your worries, and your cares. Fighting for the one next to you can easily get lost in the shuffle of trying to fight for yourself, trying to survive, and just trying to make it from day to day.
You know the result of that way of living. Not only can you feel alone, you can feel like everyone's against you and you're against everyone else. You can get the impression that no one really cares. You might even think that about your kids, your spouse, your parents, or even your group of friends; you can very easily begin to wonder if anyone is really thinking about you--your very real needs, fears, hopes, and yearnings.
This can send you into despair or even depression. You can lose hope or even chase down after things that bring you temporary comfort. You can become trapped in negativity and darkness or you can become ensnared in practices that destroy you and wage war against your soul.
It's not easy, that feeling that there's no one next to you who really cares.
Do you ever feel that way? If you do, I want to share something with you today that is true and certain. And I mean that; true, certain, you can count on it. It may be something you would never expect, but it is a word of encouragement for you today and for your life.
You have Someone fighting for you. You have Someone next to you who is watching out for you.
A wise man named Solomon said many years ago: "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).
Solomon knew something very important. He understood that God has given a precious gift to you. There is a friend in your life who sticks closer than any earthly brother. He is your Savior, Jesus Christ, the true God. He is the One who even calls Himself your brother. He's a Brother you can always count on.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, literally God who became flesh for us for our salvation because we couldn't save ourselves. Yes, He is God. Yes, He is Man, and it gets even more personal for you and me today.....because the Bible teaches that this Jesus, this Savior, this Mighty One; He is also your Brother and mine!
Our reading today in Hebrews says that Jesus is not ashamed to call the people He gave His life for brothers. He is not ashamed to be the Person next to you--the One who is looking out for you (Hebrews 2:11). In fact, the Bible declares that God fights for you (Joshua 23:10; Psalm 35:1). He's fighting for you right now; even in the midst of your loneliness, or if you're suffering injustice, or if you're enduring pain. He understands your plight. He is looking out for you even now.
How can this be? How can this be true? How could the perfect Son of God, the risen Savior Jesus, the One Who worked miracles, and cast out demons, and conquered even death, how could He ever become and be your Brother, the One Who chooses to be next to you?
Well, hear this....He can and He is your Brother because He walked the road that you're on right now.
Back in the late 1800s, a little girl was seen carrying a baby boy almost as big as her. As the girl struggled along, someone asked if she was tired. The little girl looked up and appeared shocked by the question. She said, "No, he's not heavy; he's my brother."
Her reply became the slogan for Father Flanagan's Boys Town children's home in the 1940s and became a hit song in 1969: "He Ain't Heavy; He's My Brother."
You see, that's the loving and self-sacrificial attitude Jesus had when He came to be the One next to you, the One you can count on in all things..... Philippians, chapter two, describes it well:
Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men......he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:4-8).
That is why the writer of the book of Hebrews said, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He (Jesus) likewise partook of the same, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."
What does this all mean? Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you. He took upon Himself the obligation to repay the debt that you and I owe God for sin, our failures, our imperfections, and shortcomings. Jesus proved that through His death and resurrection that He is the One next to you; the One you can truly count on. He is the ultimate brother's keeper. He came to walk your road; the road you're on right now. He fights for your life to forgive you, to give you the certainty that you are not alone, and give you the eternal hope of heaven as His gift.
He stepped in to save you and me. You're not a burden. We're not burdens. You're not imposing on Him. You're not an inconvenience. You're not heavy; Jesus loves you and carries you. He'll even carry you home to Himself. That's what it means to be His brother, His sister, His friend by faith!
During the strong storms that hit last summer, Christopher and Ben Vince decided to take a walk into the woods near their house to see the leaves blow in the wind. They realized it was a bad idea as they saw trees beginning to blow over. Suddenly, twelve-year-old Christopher shouted to his sixteen-year-old brother, "Look out!" He dashed forward and pushed Ben with all of his might. Ben tumbled out of the way only to see a tree fall on his brother and kill him.
Ben said, "I want the whole world to know how brave my little brother was. Christopher saved my life. It could have been me if it wasn't for him."
That's what your brother Jesus did for you eternally. He pushed you out of the way when the whole weight of death was about to fall on you. As the consequences of sin and your own fallenness, that's what justly is coming our way, until Jesus pushes you out of the way and takes it all upon Himself. Hear me today, this is important, that's just a glimpse of the reality of what it means when Jesus died on the cross for sinners. If you think of the cross of Jesus today, think this too, "If it wasn't for Him, it would have been me."
So, what's trying to crush you? Did you hear the promise of Jesus say, "I am with you always"? Do you hear the certain word of Jesus saying, "Your sins are forgiven"? Do you hear the Good News that "through death, His death, He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Hebrews 2:14-16)? Do you hear the promise that "because he himself suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18)?
You see, through His gifts to you....His living Word, His grace in Baptism, His enduring presence for you in His Holy Communion, Jesus pushes you out of the way from all that would crush you. He saves your life and continues to walk with you as the One next to you, the One who always fights for you when it matters most.
Each week on this program, I want to make sure that you know about this Jesus as our Savior, our Brother, much like Ben said, "If it wasn't for Him, it would have been me."
So let me ask you this. In your life, would you agree that it sure would be good to have a brother like that? I know I would....I would love to know that I have a brother who would fight for me no matter what, a brother who cares for me especially when I'm down....if not a brother, then a friend even closer than a brother...
There have been many famous brothers in history. The Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, created wonderful music. The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, ushered us into the age of the airplane. The Marx brothers, Groucho, Harpo, and the rest, brought laughter to millions. But your Brother, your Friend even closer than a brother, Jesus Christ, continues to make the most remarkable difference of all in your life. He's the One next to you. He stands ready to help, to strengthen, to renew, and revive. He's given everything for you.
The generosity of your Brother, your Savior, your Lord, it's astounding, isn't it? And it can change your life too. If He's your brother, you will look at others differently as well.
With Christ as his brother, his Savior....C.S. Lewis said, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses...for in Him also Christ...is truly hidden."
That's how Ma'ake Kemoeatu felt about his brother. Ma'ake was an NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens. His brother, Chris, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two brothers grew up in Tonga and then Hawaii. They both played college football at Utah. They both went on to play in the NFL and even won Super Bowls on their respective teams. But Chris encountered an obstacle he never expected. After suffering kidney pain his whole life, it was discovered that Chris had advanced kidney disease and required a kidney transplant. Chris' NFL career came to a screeching halt after the 2011 season.
When his older brother Ma'ake heard the news, he did something remarkable. He quit the Ravens in order to donate a kidney to his brother. He let go of the NFL life, the NFL dream, and the rush of the Sunday games. He laid it all down for his brother.
He said this simple but oh so powerful thing. He said, "My brother couldn't play anymore, and I didn't want to be in a position where he couldn't play but I kept playing. As soon as my brother's health was at risk, I wanted to stop everything and give him the help he needed."
That's what faithful brothers do. That's a glimpse of what Jesus did for you. And that's the life you not only get to receive today, that's the life you get to live. You can give your all to those God brings into your life, because He will always give you His all for all things. The Apostle John said, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." He goes on to say, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:10-11 NIV).
If you are tracking with me today, listen, I know that we live in a turbulent world. It whips up hatred easily. It stirs up divisiveness, arguments, defensiveness, self-protection, and self-centeredness. The winds of individuality blow hard. The temptation is strong to go it alone!
But, the only One Who is a true Brother for all, in all times and for all places, Jesus, He brings clarity. He is the One next to you that never leaves. He fights for you and walks with you to the end. And He lifts up your head to see the people around you. He opens your eyes to see that you, too, in Him are a brother, a sister to others who can be counted on in all things too.
That's a life I want to have, but even more a life I want to live. Look around then, with me; who needs to be "the one next to them in His Name?"
With the overflowing love of God in your life, could it be time for you to see the people around you and share God's love and grace with them?
When you notice people and love them and see them as the person next to you in battle, wounded, maybe panicky and out of control, that's especially the time to fight for them in Him. You pray for them. You serve, and love, and talk, witness, and help, you bring His life to their lives when it matters most. That's what brothers and sisters of Christ do-because that's what your Brother Jesus did for you.
A fourth-grader named Logan Hearn heard his mother scream. Logan's little brother Brendan had fallen into the swimming pool and wasn't breathing. His mom called 911 and then frantically tried to perform CPR on little Brendan. Seeing her panic, nine-year-old Logan, who had just taken a junior lifesaving class, moved his mom over gently and said, "Mom, you're doing that wrong, let me help." Logan began CPR on his little brother and saved his brother's life. Brendan was okay. When asked about his heroic act, Logan said, "I wouldn't say I'm a hero, because any other brother would do that for his little brother too."
Jesus, One even closer than a brother, did that for you, for me, and more! Through His life, and death, and resurrection, He pumps eternal life and salvation into our breathless lives. In all things, He is the One next to us. The One Who fights for us. The One Who will never let us down. Put your faith in Him, be a brother or sister to others in His Name! You'll be glad you did, forever!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for October 04, 2015
Topic: Pro-Life, A Fundamental Teaching
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has always taken a pro-life stance, but some might say we should stay away from politics if we want to reach people with the Gospel.
SELTZ: Mark, I would agree that politics is not going to solve many of our problems today. In fact, many times it makes things worse, not better. But the statement "Pro-Life" is not a political statement, it is a Biblical statement.
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean?
SELTZ: The idea of the sanctity of life is not something that we decide in the ballot box or by popular opinion. It's a clear, foundational teaching of the Bible. Life is precious, life is a gift from God and we are accountable to God in how we use our lives, spend our lives, even how we treat others in this life.
ANNOUNCER: People often say the opposite though; they'll say, "Well, it's my life to do with as I please."
SELTZ: And that's a sad way really to look at life because it misses the blessings that parents were to you, or friends were to you, or even the gifts that God uniquely gave to you; you miss that when you think that your life is your own, period.
ANNOUNCER: So, then, to be pro-life is first and foremost to see each individual person as precious to God, someone who has eternal value before God and was meant to live a purposeful, even eternal life in relationship with Him.
SELTZ: I think that's right; at least that's what it means when a Christian person is talking about not only their life, but even those who may not yet believe. But, here's the added blessing to this way of thinking. If you believe that all life is precious, then you and I have to respect even those with whom we disagree. I've got a moral obligation to treat my neighbor the way God treats me.
ANNOUNCER: And this is where we see the Bible's understanding of community, calling for people to treat each other with dignity and respect.
SELTZ: Right. And that's why even our founding, political documents in the United States speak about an individual's rights as something that exists from God, not from any government or leader. The Bible teaches that we have an obligation to value life and that applies to life in the womb as well as to our neighbor down the street.
ANNOUNCER: So, what makes this all so controversial today?
SELTZ: Sometimes, I've got to tell you, I don't know why people are so negative about this teaching. It values others, it demands that we respect others who are different than us, even to cherish people's uniqueness and it's rooted in the fact that God created human beings with a special dignity in His creation. Maybe there's a push back from those who don't want to have anything to do with God.
ANNOUNCER: And would you also say it has something to do with the so-called sexual revolution?
SELTZ: That may be right too. This whole move away from sexuality and intimacy as a part of a committed, married relationship to sex as recreation, that too could be a form of rebellion against God and His teaching about marriage, family, sex, and intimacy.
ANNOUNCER: And it has wreaked havoc on society.
SELTZ: It has. Obviously, the ones who suffered the most from this new way of thinking are, of course, the most vulnerable among us, children in the womb. But even the adults who give away their bodies as merely being part of a date, or give away their intimacy merely for the fun of the evening; I think there's a devaluation of their own lives there too.
ANNOUNCER: So this teaching goes deeper than any political policy or affiliation, it really goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being, doesn't it?
SELTZ: It sure does, and I think that's why the church needs to be a voice that values life, all of life, even the lives with whom we disagree, or the lives of those who disagree with the Bible. God Himself calls us to reflect the value that He places on life in all we do. And, in that regard, God also calls us to defend "innocent, vulnerable" lives. It's what makes us human!
ANNOUNCER: And, believing such things, namely that life itself is a gift from God, one that is ultimately accountable to Him; there is a certain civility that develops from that too.
SELTZ: I think there is. You look at other people as those you are there to serve because life is accountable to the One who created it, and if you are a Christian, you also know that life is something that He has redeemed for you too.
ANNOUNCER: Redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. Pro-life sounds like love, humility, and dignity in action for others.
SELTZ: It is.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Action in Ministry for October 4, 2015
Monta "Boom" Ekwanit Denow
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and I'm pleased to welcome to the microphone Monta Ekwanit Denow, otherwise known as Boom. She is the director of Journey Into Light, which is LHM's ministry center in Thailand. Boom, welcome.
DENOW: Thank you for having me here. I'm very happy to be here and get to talk about the work in Thailand.
ANNOUNCER: You have a lot of activity taking place at our ministry center in Thailand; several radio programs. Let's talk about those first. I know how much work goes into producing The Lutheran Hour each week; but you have three pre-recorded programs that run daily plus a live broadcast. Tell us about your staff. How many people work together on these programs?
DENOW: We have two technicians, studio technicians, and we have four speakers.
ANNOUNCER: All right.
DENOW: They work together.
ANNOUNCER: Do the speakers provide all of the content? Do they write the program?
DENOW: Yes. They have to do full scripts for that.
ANNOUNCER: And this is every day.
DENOW: Every day. But they enjoy doing it.
ANNOUNCER: Let's talk now about a live program that you do once a week.
DENOW: Once a week, every Saturday, for one hour. The program gives a variety of practical information about raising children, and how to have good relationships, Bible verses, and Christian teaching are used as the basis for the program.
ANNOUNCER: What kind of questions do people ask?
DENOW: When we put Bible verses; "What does it mean? Because I don't understand." And when we talking about problems in the family, they call in and they want to learn from us and share what their problems are. So then that's a chance for us to encourage them.
ANNOUNCER: And for many of your listeners to hear something from the Bible is a new experience because there aren't that many Christians in Thailand, are there?
DENOW: No, we don't have...we just have 1.6 percent.
ANNOUNCER: 1.6 percent.
DENOW: That's very little.
ANNOUNCER: Thailand is overwhelmingly a Buddhist country.
DENOW: Majority are Buddhist.
ANNOUNCER: What do you find is most challenging about presenting Christianity to an overwhelmingly Buddhist population?
DENOW: People in Thailand, they follow their generations. They don't understand why they do that, so that's a big challenge for us; that we have to carry the love of God and share through them that this...we have hope, why they have no hope, no mercy. They have punishment, but we have forgiveness. So that's the big thing.
ANNOUNCER: I would imagine that the gospel comes as such good news to someone who feels that....
ANNOUNCER: ....that anything you've said or done you've either got to pay for....
ANNOUNCER: ....or you've got to make up for it in some way and if you can't make up for it in this life...
DENOW: Yeah. That's the thing that they are afraid of because I was one of those people, I knew it. I could not save myself and I don't know who was keeping score for me for being good, doing good; so my team and I carry the message of hope to them...
ANNOUNCER: And what can the listeners to The Lutheran Hour do to help and support you? Are there any specific prayer requests or things that they could do?
DENOW: Yeah. Please pray that God will bless our ministry activities to touch the hearts of Thai people. Please also pray that the Thai people will respond to the gospel and come to believe in Jesus, their Savior. That's my prayer for them.
ANNOUNCER: We've been talking with Monta Ekwanit Denow. Boom, thanks for being with us.
DENOW: Thank you for having me here.
ANNOUNCER: To learn more about Journey Into Light, call The Lutheran Hour toll free 1-855-john316. We'll also enclose a simple, little gift to help you remember this work in your prayers. That's 1-855-564-6316, or go online: lutheranhour.org and look for the tab that says Action in Ministry. Our email address is email@example.com.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Christ, Our Human Likeness Sharing" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Son of God, Eternal Savior" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)