In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit
There is, perhaps, no more abused word in our time than the word “love”. The common definition of love, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, has been changed. Love used to flow from faith, a devotion to someone or something. Now it seems that love flows from, well, love.
A Christian must disagree with this modern definition of love, for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. However, even Christians get caught up in believing that it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a belief system. All that matter is that you demonstrate love by assisting the poor and needy. So love flows from love. But where does love come from? Love seems to appear out of thin air, or is perhaps an inherent trait passed down through the generations. Love from love is, by and large, the very opposite of true love.
“New” love is whitewashed selfishness and self-love. For example, the word “tolerance” has been re-defined. Tolerance used to mean that you disagree with someone or something but, out of respect for the individual or the organization, you tolerated their position with the hope that you could work toward agreement. The new definition of tolerance is that anyone with a particular bias toward something is unacceptable. A “tolerant” person under the new definition is someone who is neutral in every aspect of life. Nothing is right. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is absolute. Anyone who says otherwise must be silenced as “intolerant”. If this isn’t whitewashed selfishness and self-love, then what is?
Today Jesus exhorts us to render more compassionate love to our neighbor, whether or not we love or even tolerate the person. Unconverted people are not able to render the mercy Jesus exhorts because they are dead in sin. They are bad trees. The bad tree bears bad fruit. The bad tree is dead in trespasses and sins. What looks like mercy and compassion from them is actually, in God’s eyes, self-love and whitewashed compassion.
When Jesus says be merciful, even as your Father is merciful, He speaks to those who call God their Father in faith. He speaks to you because you have experienced God’s mercy in Christ through the forgiveness of sins. You also truly love your neighbor because you love God the Father. God loved you before the foundation of the world. His love is reflected in your love toward Him and especially toward your neighbor. God does not need your love, but your neighbor does.
Jesus gives three examples of bestowing more compassionate love toward your neighbor. First, Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Christians are often called intolerant because we are judgmental and condemnatory about sin. When we judge and condemn certain actions and behaviors on the basis on God’s Word, we are right in judging and condemning. We also believe that God has set up the vocations of secular authorities, parents, even pastors, to exercise judgment and condemnation at God’s command and according to His Word.
The kind of judging and condemning Jesus speaks against in Luke chapter six is the kind that flows from hatred and thoughtless contempt of the neighbor. We deem our neighbor unworthy of love or compassion. We judge him simply because of the way he looks or the way he acts. Even when our neighbor is in open sin, we are able to speak against the sin, but still practice compassion toward him.
Perhaps the best way to be compassionate toward our neighbor mired in sin is to cover his sin and pray for him. It sound contradictory to cover our neighbor’s sin, show mercy on him, yet also speak against sin. Consider that you are a sinner as well. How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. We fall under the same condemnation of sin as that of our neighbor. Yet we as Christians live in daily contrition and repentance, living in baptismal grace that drowns sin in order that the new man may rise and walk with Jesus, following His pure example, albeit as a forgiven sinner rather than the perfect Savior.
Jesus says further: forgive, and you will be forgiven. It’s hard enough to believe God forgives sins, let alone for us to forgive those who sin against us. But our Lord reminds us we are to forgive our neighbor not merely seven times, but seven times seventy times. That doesn’t mean 490 times and done. Our Lord does not keep score when it comes to forgiveness and neither should we. Instead, we forgive as we have been forgiven. As much as the words “I’m sorry” flow from a Christian’s mouth, so also the words “You’re forgiven” quickly leap from a Christian’s mouth as well. Keeping score with forgiveness is walking the path of death. Forgiving freely, and forgetting the offense, is walking the path of righteousness and everlasting life.
Jesus says further: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. There is hardly more opportunity for a charitable rendering of love than giving. You are by now familiar with the words I speak before the collection of tithes from Hebrews chapter 13: [Through Christ] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Praise of God happens both with lips and with lives.
Consider also Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Note Paul does not tell them how much to give. That is up to you in good Christian judgment. He does say each one must give, but not reluctantly or under compulsion. Giving is a Gospel thing, not a Law thing. Psalm 116 says it best: What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people…. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
It is well and good to praise the Lord, but from where does this flow? Listen to the beginning of Psalm 116: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord God has given you life in place of death. He gives you His Son’s perfect obedience and innocent suffering and death for your sin. Jesus becomes sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. That’s why you give. That’s why you forgive. That’s why you do not judge or condemn when it is not your vocation to judge or condemn. You do what is given you to do from the God Who gives you everything you need in this body and life.
It is useless to speak of love flowing from love. Love must have a source. Our heavenly Father is the source of all love, for He loved the world by sending His only-begotten Son so that all who believe in Him should not die but live forever. As He loves you, you also love one another, even your enemies. As you suffer “intolerance”, you are given strength to bear it, and all burdens, in the shadow of the cross of Jesus. Your burdens are made light in His burden for you.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit