Jeffery Portmann, the Youth Director of the Northwest Ministry Network, has been the perfect speaker for our winter camp this year. The theme is “The Difference” – the idea that God wants to change us that he might bring change through us.
Portmann focused tonight’s message on the gospel story. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26, ESV).
His sermon got me thinking about how we try so hard to set ourselves apart – or at least above those we do not like. We draw distinctions. We focus on differences. We identify ourselves by gender, age, income level, geographical location, religion, race, sexual orientation, political ideology, entertainment, hobbies, technology, apparel, sports clubs, etc. The discussion quickly becomes about us vs. them. We end up feeling a lot better about ourselves and a lot worse about someone else. And those feelings never last long enough – which means that we quickly are off on yet another journey to discover even more differences.
All this to hide the world’s worst-kept secret: we live in a world that is broken. This is not how it was supposed to be – and we are a part of the problem. When it all comes down to it, there is no real distinction that matters. We have all sinned – we are ALL in conflict with our Creator. And we can do nothing about it (except maybe make it worse).
In comes the Difference-Maker. Maybe this is the greatest tragedy with all of us investing so much time drawing lines in the sand…in focusing on Us vs. Them…that we fail to focus on Christ. He is the Great Distinction. He is the One who has invited all to follow him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. All of us are dying from the inside-out but all of us have the opportunity to live again – and to live more abundantly.
Pray for our students this weekend. I can’t wait.