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Matthew 3:1-12

 “What Does it Mean to be Christians?”

I want to start with something funny. I learned this story from one internet site: Fred is 32 years old, and he is still single. One day a friend asked, “Why aren’t you married? Can’t you find a woman who will be a good wife?” Fred replied, “Actually, I’ve found many women I wanted to marry, but when I bring them home to meet my parents, my mother doesn’t like them.” His friend thinks for a moment and says, “I’ve got the perfect solution. Just find a girl who’s just like your mother.” A few months later, they meet again, and his friend says, “Did you find the perfect girl? Did your mother like her?” With a frown, Fred answers, “Yes, I found the perfect girl. She was just like my mother. You were right. My mother liked her very much.” The friend said, “Then, what’s the problem?” Fred replied, “My father doesn’t like her.”

Hearing this, I wonder if there is a perfect person who exists in the world. Well, you may think, “My spouse is perfect to me,” or “My significant other is perfect to me.” That may be true. I don’t think you’d be lying. But if you feel they are perfect, it’s because you love them. The disciple Peter says, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. As I mentioned last Sunday, the Advent season is when we are waiting for the coming Christ. How do you wait for Christ? Today’s scripture introduces a man who waited for Jesus Christ his whole life. That’s John the Baptist. We call him John the Baptist, as he was the first to baptize people. According to John the Baptist, being baptized is to prepare to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “he baptizes people with water, but the One who comes after him, will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John the Baptist hadn’t meet Jesus yet, but we did. We met Jesus in Spirit and believe in him. That’s why we became Christians. However, I wonder what it means to meet Jesus in Spirit. So, today, I want to talk about “What does it mean to be Christians?”

At first, when people called Jesus’ disciples “Christians,” it was at the Antioch church. According to the Scripture in Acts, the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to Antioch as a missionary. Barnaba invited the Apostle Paul into the Antioch church as co-minister. They worked together at the church for a whole year and taught many people, and the scripture says, “it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). That means those who were out of the church (who didn’t know Jesus Christ) used the word “Christian” at first. I wondered why they called the disciples of Jesus “Christians” even though they might not know that Jesus is Christ. It seemed like they met at the church for the whole year and studied the Bible together. Perhaps if we attend church services for more than one year and join Bible study and participate consistently, people might call us “Christians.” However, is that all? Are you sure you are a Christian? If non-Christians call you a Christian, how does that make you feel? I don’t mean “a perfect Christian.” But, I mean, if you live a “Christian life” daily.

Sooner I could find the key to Christianity in the Gospel of John. Jesus says several times, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have a love for one another” (John 13:34-35; 15:12). The key  to why they called them “Christians” was “love.” They loved one another as Jesus loved them. The people might see those who loved one another with Christ’s love and call them “Christians.”

The love of Christ is “to love people as Jesus loved us.” The love Jesus showed us was to lay down his life on the cross for us. Greater love has no one than this (John 15:13). Does Jesus want us to lay down our lives for others? Is that the only way we can be true Christians? I want to share a story Jesus told people (Matthew 18:21-35) in order to understand how to love others with Christ’s love. There was a man who owed the master ten million dollars. He was not able to pay back to the master, his master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had to be sold to repay the debt. So, he fell on his knees before his master’s feet, begging, “Be patient with me. I will pay you back everything.” His master took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go. But, when he went out, freed of this debt, he found one of his friends who owed him a hundred dollars. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Payback now what you owe me.” His friend begged him, kneeling, “Be patient with me. I will pay back to you.” But he refused and imprisoned him until he could pay the debt. When the others saw them, they were distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then, the master called him in and said, “You are wicked. I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your friend just as I had on you?” In anger, his master imprisoned him until he paid back all debts.

The love of Christ is the love of forgiveness. Loving others as Jesus loves us means forgiving others, even seventy-seven times, who trespass against us. Before God, we should remember how we sinned against God, nevertheless, how God loves us with forgiveness. At every Sunday service, we say the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespass as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is not just a liturgy; we should practice it daily. As we remember that God forgave us our sins, we should forgive others who sinned against us, made things difficult or upset with us, and then love them as Jesus loves us. Jesus canceled our debt of one million dollars, and we can withdraw others’ debt of one hundred dollars. That is the Christian life.

John the Baptist spent his whole life preparing for the way of the Lord because he believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. John the Baptist met the Lord before he died. He was sure, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The baptizing with water is a liturgy, symbolizing repentance of sin and confession of being a Christian, but it is not all for Christians. After baptism with water, we should receive baptism with the Holy Spirit, which means falling in love with Jesus Christ, so that we may know how he loves us. Let us love one another as Jesus loves us so we may be Christians. As we wait for Christmas, let’s regain his love in our hearts and practice his love in everyday life! Thanks be to God. Amen!