All Saints: Children of God

Readings: Revelation 7:2-17, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
Hymns: 909, 676, 677, 670, 659

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

St. John declares, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

If you think about it, this love of God is really amazing. The love St. John is writing about is God’s unconditional love toward us sinners. It is a love that He has for us no matter what. It a love which is not based on our worthiness or how well we treat God. Instead, it is a love that is boundless, gracious, and merciful. It is a love that originates outside of us in Him.

This love is so amazing because, despite our inability to love others in this way, God still loves us unconditionally. And in this love, God calls us to be His very children.

Now, if you are a parent, think about the love you have for your children. Think about their many mistakes and foibles. Think about the times they have hurt you through their words, deeds, and actions. Think about their uncanny ability to get under your nerves.

Because you love you children, you probably have forgotten most of the sins they have committed against you. You don’t remind them of their sins (unless, of course it is in good humor). You may remember some of their sins, but you are unwilling to bring their trespasses to mind. You just simply don’t hold their sins against them.

Why not? You love your children! Unconditionally! Even though your children have sinned against you more than anyone else, you love them anyway. You have such a strong bond toward them, there’s nothing they can do to cause you to withdraw your love from them.

When your children suffer, you suffer. When your children commit a serious offense, you are grieved more than any by their actions. And yet you keep on loving them. You keep on forgiving them. You receive them with wide open arms.

The love you have toward them is so inexpressible, they do not realize your love toward them until they have children of their own.

In love, you do just as the loving father did with his son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The prodigal son treated his father as if he were dead when he requested his inheritance and wanted to leave his father’s house forever. When that son squandered his entire inheritance and finally realized that he would have a better life as a hired hand at his father’s farm, he went back home. He intended to make his request, but his father would not have it. His father received him back as a son. The father was so happy to see his son who had treated him so shamefully. The father did not remind his son of his sin. While the oldest son was angry, but the father was not. The father was forgiving and loving. The father received his son back into his family with wide open arms. The father loved his son unconditionally.

That is the kind of love the Father has given to us. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every offense we have caused against others is an offense against God. Every time we sin, we sin against God. There is no time when we could possibly sin against ourselves or our neighbors but not sin against God.

  We have been a rebellious people. We have been a stiff-necked people. We constantly complain even though God has always taken care of us. We pretend that we’re in rough times even though the average American is living in greater luxury than ever. We often live our lives as if God’s Word does not matter. We do not take much time out of our lives in prayer. We take the Divine Service and our church for granted. We do not cherish life as God Himself does. We spend little time trying to ensure the pure Word is proclaimed in our midst.

Yet we get all worked up when our neighbors do not treat us in the ways we feel we should be treated. We do not love our neighbors as much as we love our children. If we did love our neighbors with the same kind of love, we would be forgiving of them. We would treat all our neighbors as the father treated his prodigal son. We would only speak well of them. We would continually forgive our neighbors—seventy times seven. If, in love, we viewed our neighbors as God’s children, we would never hold any grudges or any animosity against anyone. Ever.

Think about it. All humans are sinners. None can produce perfect righteousness. Since we are no better than the next person, we should expect ourselves to be able to forgive that next person. When we refuse—or when we feel we are unable to forgive—we are placing ourselves on a pedestal above them. We are pretending as if we are somehow better than they. For that, we repent.

And yet this makes God’s love toward us even more amazing.

We are on the same plane as our neighbor. But God is not on the same plane as us. God is holy. We are sinners. God is righteous. We are unrighteous. God is love. We are often filled with anger and resentment.

And look at how God treats us anyway! We have a hard time forgiving those who are on the same plane as we. And yet our perfect God comes to us in love and forgives us sinners!

Why? His love toward us is unconditional. In His love, the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world to bear our sins in His own Body, to shed His innocent blood in our place, to die taking the sins of the world away.

There’s hardly a person we sinners would give up our lives for. We’d normally be willing to give up our lives for our children. But usually for no one else. We simply aren’t willing to die for others if we had to. This demonstrates we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.

Yet Jesus loves us. That’s why He gave up His life for us. He did it so that the penalty for our sins would be paid. He did it because He wants us to join Him in Paradise. He died on the cross because He loves us. Unconditionally. More than you can possibly love your own children.

Because God loves us and rendered perfect satisfaction for our sins, we can now be called children of God. Because Jesus has atoned for our sins and taken them all away, we can be declared righteous by God. Because Jesus has forgiven us, we can be declared acceptable to Heaven.

In fact, God now even views us sinners as saints. Even though we have been unprofitable servants, Jesus has cleansed us by His Blood and He now declares us to be holy ones. Our sins are replaced with Christ’s very righteousness. In love, we sinners are declared by God to be saints.

This is unconditional love! God has bestowed His love on us that we are now called children of God! As His children, we are purified—declared righteous—holy in Christ. As His children, we are declared to be innocent.

That is how God now views you—O child of God! He sees you as a saint—a holy one. He doesn’t see your sins and faults. He doesn’t see your weaknesses and inabilities. Instead, He sees you as His own dear child. He sees you in Christ. He sees you as His dearly beloved.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to [you]!”

Because God loves us in this way, we are now called to love our neighbors in the same way. We have no excuses. We cannot justify doing anything less.

But when we fail, we repent. We beg God for mercy. We ask Him for the ability to forgive as God has forgiven us. We seek the ability to treat all people as the father treated his prodigal son.

That’s how God’s children live. You now bear the name of God in your Baptism. You are not your own. You are bought at a price. You have been rescued from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. You have been added to the family of God to be His dearly beloved child. You are the salt of the earth, and you are the light of the world.

In Christ—by grace through faith—you are numbered among the saints. To be a saint means none other than to be holy. But you cannot muster up holiness on your own. Instead, holiness comes from God. It is received from Him by faith. You are holy, not on account of your works, but on account of our Lord’s works. He declares you holy—a saint—a child of God.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day—the day in which we observe all the saints of God—know that you are a child of God—a saint. God loves you no matter what. Jesus died for you. And He rose for you. To give you the gift of everlasting life. To bring you into the kingdom of God!

And know this: your brothers and sisters in Christ are also children of God. They, too, are loved by Him. They, too, are forgiven. They, too, are viewed by God as saints.

Blessed are you dear saints, that God has been merciful to you! Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen