We Are All God’s Favorite
Based on Acts 10:34-38, today we’ll focus on the thought that God does not show favoritism, but rather that he loves all people with an unending love. Today we rejoice that “We are All God’s Favorite.” January 12, 2020.
It’s hard to imagine the way that Peter would have felt when he saw that vision from God, that vision of a sheet coming down from the sky. It was filled with animals, animals that Peter realized instantly had one thing in common – they were unclean – animals that an Israelite was forbidden to eat! As a good little Jewish boy, Peter was raised knowing and following the Old Testament regulations about clean and unclean animals. But then God gives Peter the command! (Guys if you are looking for a way to justify your next hunting trip, Acts 10:13 would make a convincing argument) God commands Peter, “Get up, Kill and eat!”
My wife and I are one week into a 30-day elimination diet! Here’s how it works! If it’s a food that brings a person joy, it’s eliminated from the diet! I’m only sort of kidding! No dairy, no sugar, no bread, no happiness! But the idea is that it’s only for 30 days. You can do almost anything for 30 days, right? Now the idea is that your cravings for junk food subside and it’s supposed to be the beginning of some lifestyle changes, which I’m hoping for. But I would also be lying to you if I told you that I was not going to have nachos and peanut butter cups and coffee with creamer in it – like God intended – again. And I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t going to eat all those things on February 6…for breakfast…which is 3 weeks 2 days and 22 hours away…but who’s counting?
There was a little boy in our preschool in Alaska who found out that he was no longer allergic to peanuts! Can you guess what he ate for lunch for a week straight? That’s right - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He went a little crazy in his excitement for his new found freedom! He had peanuts as a side dish and peanut butter M&M’s for dessert. If it had peanuts in it, this little boy ate it!
Do you think Peter went crazy when it settled in that he could how have anything for food? I’m sure it took a while for Peter to catch on that those foods that were bad before are OK now. But once it settled in, do you think he went on a “no-longer unclean” binge? Do you think he went out and gorged himself on bacon-wrapped crab? I wonder if he ate lobster for a week? I bet he loved eating his steaks rare from then on! That would be the way I’d handle that situation, but maybe it was different for Peter.
God sent Peter a vision of some animals! After lunch today, carve out two minutes and read through Acts chapter 10 to get the details that I don’t have time to share this morning. You’ll see how God communicated with a Gentile commander named Cornelius and how he put him and Peter in the same room. You’ll read about how God taught Peter a lesson about food, but more importantly that lesson was about people. He learned through the lesson of a Gentile and through the instruction of the Lord that there are no unclean people either, but rather that Christ Jesus died for all the world. God didn’t play favorites with the Jews, but rather he loves us all and wants us all to be with him in glory.
Today we’ll focus on that thought – that God does not show favoritism, but rather that he loves all people with an unending love. Today we rejoice that we are all God’s favorite.
It’s a bit of an Old Testament theme that playing favorites is a bad idea. Very seldom did that game end well. Do you remember when Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their twin boys? Isaac loved Esau the best and Rebekah loved Jacob more. How did that end up? With those boys chasing each other and being chased across the countryside. They lived a great long while as enemies as a result of the favor that one parent showed them instead of showing equal love. One generation later, Jacob had his favorite son. It was Joseph – born to his favorite wife (though that’s a topic for “a whole nother” sermon.) Jacob’s favoritism landed Joseph in the bottom of a cistern and bound in the back of an Ishmaelite caravan to be sold to slave traders in Egypt. There are other examples, too, where not showing equal love backfired in people’s faces. It always does. Favoritism is not a good plan.
Yet we play favorites all the time! For some it’s a favorite child or at least times when you like one more than the other. For some it’s favoring those who can repay your kindness with kindness of their own. Often, we play favorites with those whom we know will someday be able to return the favor and help us out. If we know that person will never help us, we are reluctant to help them. For some it’s showing favoritism to people like you – who look like you, talk like you, dress like you, vote like you. It’s easy to dismiss a person who doesn’t behave like you or who doesn’t behave at all. It’s easy to judge a book by its cover and to shut out and turn down and be uncomfortable around those who aren’t just like us.
And even if you can’t relate to anything that I just said, we all are prone to making ourselves our favorite person. We default to tend to our own needs and wants and desires and grow angry with those who stand in our way or who jeopardize our comforts. We are self-servers by nature and we kind of like it that way. We consider it normal to make ourselves favorites.
But God doesn’t consider that normal at all. He considers it sin. He tells us not to show favorites in the words that we choose, in the people we serve, in the attitudes that we allow to linger in our hearts and minds. He tells us not to show favorites in the way we love those around us. He tells us to be humble and to consider others better than ourselves. He calls on us to help others rather than helping ourselves, yet we fail to live up to those high standards. “It’s hard not to play favorites. It’s hard to stand at the back of the line.” Yet that’s what God expects, it’s what he commands, it’s what he requires of those who wish to stand in his presence.
God doesn’t consider favoritism and selfishness normal like we do. He sees it as the disease that it really is. He sees that we need to be cured of it and the sin that causes it, or else the disease will lead to death.
At Jesus’ baptism, God the Father declared “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased!” Yet God does even show favorites to him! If there was anyone who deserved favored status it was Jesus! If there was anyone who deserved to be the favorite it was the perfect and holy Son of God. But God didn’t hold him closer, than he holds you! God didn’t keep him at your expense, but rather he sent him to be your Savior. He sent him to veil himself in human flesh. He sent him to be born in Bethlehem’s manger, to live a life under the law of God. He sent him to stand in your place and mine, because we are all God’s favorite. That’s why he came to the Jordan River to be baptized. Not because he needed to be cleansed, but he came there to stand in our place and to fulfill all righteousness. He came to John to show us how important baptism is and show us how completely he would live for us. He came to announce to the world that he plays no favorites, but rather that he loves the whole world equally. That’s why it is said of him, God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). That’s why God tells us that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
That’s why God speaks through Peter in our reading: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
And that is the best news you are going to hear all day! Jesus is the Lord of all. He plays no favorites but loves the world. He’s more than just Messiah to Israel, but he is God of Gentiles too – the Savior of the nations, the Lord of all. You need not wonder if you made the cut. You need not impress God with your works to make his list. You need not catch God’s eye with your faithfulness to draw his attention from someone else he prefers. No, that’s not our God. He plays no favorites and loves the world. That’s why Jesus was baptized – for you. He was baptized for you and now in turn you are baptized into his name. As he instituted baptism, he indicated why to his disciples. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is the way that all nations, young and old, across time and culture, people like you and totally different from you could be welcomed into God’s family of believers. Baptism is for all nations and it’s a reminder to you of God’s undeserved love. He shows no favorites, but welcomes into his family those who are baptized into his name. And through baptism he gives forgiveness of sins and a promise of new life in heaven. Its pure grace, offered for free to all nations. Cherish your baptism – think about it daily. Let it be a source of comfort and strength and reassurance in God’s love.
Martin Luther once said “I’m so thankful that God didn’t write on the pages of Scripture, ‘Jesus died to pay for Martin Luther’s sins!’” He said if that were so he would drive himself crazy trying to figure out if there was another Martin Luther out there that God was talking about. What a peace-inducing thought. Christ Jesus plays no favorites, but shed his blood to earn forgiveness for the world’s sins!! That was a message that brought Martin Luther peace and joy and it can the same for you. There’s no doubt about it, you are a part of the world. You’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Heaven is yours through Jesus.
And until that day when we cross the threshold of this life and enter into the bliss of the next, we can thank God for not showing favorites and for calling us to be his own. We can thank him by not showing favorites in our world – by considering others as better and more worthy than ourselves. By humbly helping those in need, without first agonizing over the impact those actions will have on the comforts of our lives. We can look at the world the way that Jesus does and see value in every soul, even that of our enemies. We can remember what is easy to forget. No matter who you look at or what they look like, you’re looking at a person for whom Jesus Christ shed his blood. You’re looking at a person that deserves to hear the gospel and whose life could be changed by a few words from your lips.
Pray that God help you to show Christ-like love, that he helps you to make favoritism a thing of your past and wholehearted love and service your present and future. In Jesus it’s possible, and it’s already taking place in your heart. Rejoice that you are God’s favorite by grace. And filled with the joy that only the Savior can give, go out and live that love and share that love to the glory of God.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on January 12, 2020