“There Is No Restriction”
2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Children are born to learn. Babies, when they first emerge from their mother’s womb, they begin to learn. The only thing babies really know are: they need to eat and sleep. The rest is all about what they can learn.

They learn very quickly about what it takes for them to get their primary need. Milk. They learn very quickly which actions will get them milk.

As they grow, they begin to learn other behaviours which will bring them what they desire. As parents and caregivers, it is up to us how we respond to these behaviours which will either reinforce or discourage these actions in the future.

As our children grow into toddlers and preschoolers, it’s our desire to help them learn and prepare for what life will bring to them. We teach them how to cross the street; how to dress and feed themselves; what not to eat or drink that they find in the yard; and so on.

As they continue growing, we want them to have as many of the tools available to them so they can succeed in life. We want them to have the best school, the best teachers. We want them to have the best and widest experiences so they can see all the world has to offer them as they continue to grow and figure out what it is they want to do with their lives.

We want the best for our kids. We want them to be even greater than we are, so we do our best to give them the opportunities to do so.

Even if you don’t have children, we want our communities to be the best they can be, so we want the children, who are our next leaders, to be the most productive community members they can be.

We don’t want to hinder the children of our communities. What benefit could come from such an act?

This is what Paul is saying to the church in Corinth this morning as we read from 2 Corinthians.

He says,

“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way…”

Paul wants to let the Corinthians know he wants the very best for them, which is to know Jesus Christ, and they have no intention of getting in people’s way of knowing God.

Paul wishes for everyone to know Jesus Christ as he has come to know him, and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish this. He says, “… through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger…”

Paul went through all these things on his journeys in order to introduce people to Jesus Christ, the one he met on the road to Damascus and turned his life around. This is even before he had to endure shipwrecks and being stranded on an island!

How’d you like to be a Christian 2000 years ago? It’s tough, dangerous work!

How did Paul do it? How could someone endure so much pain and opposition and still continue to preach and lead people to Jesus Christ?

I tell you one thing… you’ve got to believe without a shadow of a doubt that this is true. If Jesus Christ didn’t really do the things he did, then why bother going through all these hardships for a myth?

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But there’s some hard truths in these words. Paul suffered greatly for what he believed in. People were beaten to death for believing in Jesus Christ.

And Paul says the tools they used to overcome these hardships was nothing more than “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.”

The church has had a long period of what I’ll call dominance in society. All these buildings around us, all the denominations, all kinds of architecture and music, it all echoes the power and influence of the church through the generations.

But things have changed, and they’ve changed very quickly. Almost all of you remember a time when the church was booming. Just 105 years ago the methodist church in Sydney Mines built this building because their old church wasn’t big enough. I’m sure through the 40s and 50s there were times when this building didn’t feel big enough. Yet today, with 3 churches together, we’re still not full.

Times have changed. Economic success, easier ways of life, the so called “advancement of society” has rendered us nearing extinction.

But I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing. Increasingly we see in the news of pushes against religious tradition. Thing like the removal prayer and symbols of Christianity from public places. Things like an increasing number of books targeting things which are against the traditional faith in Jesus Christ.

Why is it that after 2000 years we think we finally have it all figured out? Why is it we are so quick to debunk the eyewitness reports from people who walked with Jesus themselves?

Christianity is falling off the map. It seems to be dying and there’s no one willing to stand up for it. Well there are, but there are few who are willing to stand up and endure as Paul and the others did.

I keep hearing, “There’s no hope!”

There is hope! As long as people still believe in the Truth, there is hope. As long as people are willing to gather and tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. (How’s that for throwing in some lyrics from an old hymn?)

There is hope. It may mean we are going to have to do things differently. It may mean that in order to reach new generations and introduce them to the love of God, we may need to try new approaches to church.

I’m not saying we throw out the old. The tradition we have is very important. It will always have a place in the world. It may mean though we need different kinds of gatherings to reach different kinds of people. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know though, is that there is some sort of barrier, something is blocking people from getting to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Paul warned us about this. Paul said there should be no obstacles.

Look at what is happening around us. Society is declining in moral and ethical values. Yet, there is a great thirst for spiritual things. People are buying up self-help books, they are tuning in the shows, they are experimenting with types of meditation.

We use the best self-help book ever written every Sunday. We are the show where people can learn about living spiritual lives. We have a handle on this.

But they don’t come.

Why is that?

This is what we need to know. This information is critical to us as the church, as people who are part of something far greater and powerful than anything else that can be found on this planet.

This information is critical to us, as three churches gathered here this morning, wondering, asking questions, talking about what the United Church will look like on the Northside in the very near future.

So let’s figure it out. Only there’s one big problem. We’re not going to figure it out in here. We’re going to figure out what the barriers are by going out there and talking to people; finding out what they need, getting to know their stories.

Once we know their stories, then we come back here. Then we can talk more clearly. Then we can focus our prayers. Then we can begin to see how God may lead us to be the churches of the Northside. Then we can see where the barriers may be and we can knock them down.

Near the end of the passage we read this morning, Paul says, “There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.”

Paul opened his heart to the people of Corinth. He poured out love for these people. He poured out blood and sweat for these people so they could come to know the Lord.

No restrictions. He gave it all. Everything he had.

They responded.

The church grew.

We still have much to give. Each of our churches have the capacity to make a difference in the lives of the people who call the Northside home.

Are we willing to break through barriers. Are we willing to go out and say publicly “There are no restrictions on our love”?

It’s a risk. It could change everything we know about what it means to be a community of faith when we stand up and proclaim God’s love for His people and they start to respond.

Through the work of Paul, and all the others who started the church, they showed no restrictions, no barriers to showing the love of God shown through Jesus Christ.

May we also live in hope that through Jesus Christ we may be so bold as to speak of his greatness and love unconditionally to reach the seekers in our midst.