Dear Baptized, forgiven, and loved by God,
The expectation of getting through life always being loved by everyone is simply unrealistic, perhaps even crazy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where love is lacking, yet, not self-love. Everyone seems to have that. Selfless love is another story. Today it seems like the love of getting things, and having things, is supreme. But loving God, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, how often that is put on the backburner.
Yet, our hope and strength is that, although man’s love often fails, God’s love is perfect, and it has the power to change hearts. It is the same love that sent His Son to be our Redeemer, and to provide forgiveness for our every sin, and every lack of love.
By Grace, He has once again gathered us together today, around His means of Grace, so that we might be strengthened, and comforted by His Word and Spirit. That your faith might be nourished and fed. And that you and I might grow in love and forgiveness.
Today once again we partake of the true body and blood of the Savior, for the assurance of sins forgiven, for the strengthening of our faith. The night in which Jesus instituted this Supper of salvation, He spoke of remembering Him, remembering His love, remembering His sacrifice for us all. That’s the source of all true love. His willingness to bear our sin all the way to the cross. His submission to the Father’s will, laying down His life, only to take it up again, and promising that we too will rise, just as surely as He rose. His love conquers all. Paul writes, may “Christ dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend…And to know the love of Christ.”
Today, like usual, the Pharisees did not approach Jesus with love for Him, or with love for God’s Word, or with love for their fellow man. They approached Him with love for themselves, wanting to honor themselves.
Earlier the same day, in the same chapter of Matthew, they tried to trap Jesus in His words with a question about taxes (our bulletin picture for today portrays that event). Jesus puts them in their place, but then the Sadducees tried to trap Him also, and He silenced them too. After the Pharisees get wind that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, (their arch enemy), then the Pharisees come back for another round.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” They wanted Jesus to pick only one command, perhaps so that they could then say, “Yep, I’ve kept that one. I’m good.” Or, so that they could accuse Him of not holding the other commandments in high enough esteem.
But much to their surprise, Jesus did not pick only one, He didn’t even really pick only two, as it might seem. Jesus chose them all by saying Love God and your neighbor, because that’s the entire 10 commandments summarized into two. And Scripture has summarized those two even further, by saying, simply, “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.”
An apppropriate question then, would be, have we loved as God has called us to love? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Do we daily use at least some our time to pray to God, or, do we flip on the TV and use it to try to find fulfilment? In regard to His invitation to take all our cares and concerns to Him, have we ever thought, “yes, but I’ll do that later”? When opportunity comes, do we share the love of Christ in both word and deed? Are we always leaning not to our own understanding, even when God’s Word doesn’t seem to jive with the way we think life should be? Are we always glad to hear and learn His Word, even when it calls on us for change in our life and behavior?
Do we love God with everything we’ve got, always seeking His kingdom, His will, and His righteousness first and foremost? Or do we seek our own earthly interests first?
And what about our neighbor? What about our neighbor who rubs us the wrong way?, and maybe we can’t even hardly stand to be around him? Jesus says we are required to love him too, as we love ourselves. Do we do that by putting the best construction on his every action, always seeking to reconcile with him, and showing him the same forgiveness we want shown toward us?
Scripture says clearly, true love is patient and kind, not easily provoked, bears all things, endures all things.
Is that the kind of patient, forgiving, enduring love that is always, at all times, in my heart? And many say, “well, maybe I haven’t shown that true selfless love, all the time, and perfectly. But come on, I’m basically good at heart. I’m usually kind.”
But God requires absolute perfection. “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Our hope and faith does not come from our own struggle to love. Christ is the only Savior - He is the source of all true love.
He comes back with a question of His own. “What think ye of Christ?” How can He be both David’s Lord, and David’s Son?
Being born of the virgin Mary, Mary being a direct descendant of David - Jesus was David’s Son. Being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, Jesus was also God’s only-begotten Son.
And as true man, Jesus lived under the law for us (the law that requires absolute perfect love), to fulfil it’s every demand upon us.
He always loved His Father, always submitted to His will, even when it meant laying down His life on the cross.
He always loved us all too, with that perfect love, even forgiving those who spit on Him, and crucified Him. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us.
As true God Jesus was able to be forsaken of His Father, the true punishment for our sin, and still rise to never die again.
Believers in Christ, you have been born again into His perfect life of love. He promises to remain with you, as we continue to struggle in this world where love is lacking.
The movies would have us believe in the hope of a fairy-tale earthly human love that will never fail us. But it simply doesn’t exist in this life.
Jesus alone loves us with a perfect love. He creates new desires, new love, new strength within you.
Surely He wouldn’t give His life for us, and then say, “Well I did My part, now it’s all up to you to struggle in a world where love is lacking.”
He overcame, and He continues to help us overcome by remaining with us, even living inside by His Word and Spirit, continuing to nourish and strengthen the true faith in us.
In this life our inability to love perfectly remains, but Christ has overcome our sin and we continue to grow in His victory as His Spirit continues to work in us through His Word.
May “Christ dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend…And to know the love of Christ.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.