More / Book of the Month / On liking and loving / Luke 6:27-36 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, February 20th, 2022 / Season of Epiphany

On liking and loving / Luke 6:27-36 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, February 20th, 2022 / Season of Epiphany




On liking and loving / Luke 6:27-36 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, February 20th, 2022 / Season of Epiphany

 

 

Text: Luke 6:27-36
Theme: “On liking and loving”
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Intr –  *A mother or father that has to stay up from 2 to 3AM with their infant even when there’s an important meeting 8 in the morning at work

        *A business owner that bears the consequences and cleans up the mess left behind by an ill implemented project;

        *A person who spends hours practicing something they want to be good at

*A church where people have to mask up, clean between services, come in pre-ordained ways and can’t even shake hands or receive communion at the rail;

        What do these situations have in common? Is it that people like what they are doing or what they have to do? Not necessarily. The two main important things threading them together are:

_They might not like what they are doing, but they certainly love what they do;

_They have the end in mind;

        Keep this illustration in mind as reflect on about the Gospel for today.

          First thing to remember as we approach the Gospel today is that as Christian Lutherans we work with lots of overlapping, frequently paradoxical themes:

_Saints and Sinners; _Already and not yet; _3 in 1 _Man and God;

          So as we talk about love, kindness, patience, giving the other cheek , walking the extra mile, etc… without forgetting about standing for what‘s right and helping others to fight, we know there might be overlapping themes, gray areas in which the course of action may not be always crystal clear. Our Christian Freedom weighs in here to enhance our ability to make decisions on gray areas of life oriented by God’s core teachings for our life.

Here are some thoughts stemming from Christ’s teaching that I wanted to share with you today:

 

_To love - Jesus calls us to love our enemies, not necessarily to like them. Even if we want to assume there is some hyperbole implied here, the fact is that we don’t necessarily need to like people, but we are called to love them.

        For example: you don’t necessarily like a person who lives as an outlaw, or does all the wrong and annoying things. You can still love him or her though. It means that you don’t like the annoying, wrong things they do, but you love them and pray for them so that they might be changed.

 

_Wishing the best – This teaching is particularly challenging because in the world we are taught to wish best to the best, and the worse to the worse. “Treat me well and I’ll treat you well.” Be nice and I’ll be nice. Because you know, I’m nice already...”

In Christ we are taught to wish best to all, including the worse. We don’t support what is wrong, but we try to support people whenever possible so that they may see what’s wrong and make an U turn on their road.

 

_With the end in mind – Christians are called to have their faith active in love, even with those who insult them, or despise them, even with their enemies because we have and end in mind, which matches God’s: the redemption and salvation of all people. We want everyone to discover the Great News of being connected to Christ through faith. Remember, we were enemies of God, and He still loved us and saved us.[1] Now we want to share this same salvation with the world.

 

_The Golden rule – Do to others what you wish you would do to you. “Well pastor, now that is something that is present in many other religions, even in secular philosophers, right? Everyone knows that and agrees with it.”

Not really. The way Christians are called to act in love out of their faith in Christ is unparalleled. It is not an even trade, for it would makes us bound not to God’s command but to our feelings and needsm or to other people’s behaviours. What if they do something we don’t want them to do to us, will we respond accordingly?

We act out of our faith even when people don’t do to us as we would wish them to. We are called to respond based in what we believe, and not on other people’s perceptions and actions.

It sounds a little off the wall, but yes, Christian love does crazy things. You are called to choose not to take personal vengeance in some situations where giving the other cheek and waling the extra mile would witness Christ better than reacting based on other people’s emotions.[2]

 

_Who is the enemy? - Have you ever thought that you might be the one other people are praying for a change? We often think only about others being enemies to us, and not us being opposed to them.[3] It has become a platitude today to say “people are selfish, people are mean, mankind is terrible” and the like. How many times though we include ourselves there? I mean, really?

I was watching an interview by a football manager whose team was relegated last year so he was fielding lots of pressure and demands. He repeated more than once, “We all made mistakes in the last season. I mean, we all have our share of responsibility, and I include myself in that”. After several times repeating the mantra of “I made mistakes too” the reporter fired off, “Okay, then tell me some of what your mistakes were”? Stammering and stumbling over words for a little bit he eventually responded: “well that you guys would have to find and tell me, and, you know…but…”. And he couldn’t admit to even a single mistake he made.

Was he really including himself? Do we really include ourselves in the group of sinners?

        Thanks be to God who sent Jesus to suffer in our place, who loved His enemies, prayed for them, and died for them. Now we can come before him with and open heart and say, “I’m not always good, God. I’m a sinner. Forgive me”. He will always listen. He will always forgive.

 

_Love and message - As we love people and as we have the end in mind, we may talk about different evangelization strategies to reach them with Christ’s love. But the most important thing is to never overlook the strategy taught and exemplified by Christ: the marriage between love and message. God has not promised to act through our opinions, speculations, theories; so the confession that can produce spiritual results in those who listen to us is the one that brings the Divine teaching. And the center of our confession is Jesus Christ and his work, Holy Scripture being the only judge, norm and rule according to which all doctrines are to be judged, of which we hold the Lutheran Confessions a faithful interpretation.[4]

 

_Wisdom - To love people doesn’t mean nonresistance that could imply compliance with satanic assaults, with spread of crime and sin, and with the harm of our neighbor. Christ gives us not only selfless love but also wisdom to make use of it.[5]

        In this connection, I was asked the other day about this apparent paradox between loving all, including our enemies, versus standing for what is right and not being condescending with what is wrong. This can be a grayish area in our daily life, to which we need God’s help, illumination and forgiveness every day, for the rights and the wrongs we may do. But these teachings we can draw from the Bible:

_Love is the greatest. So our actions as Christians will always be grounded in God’s love. Again, not necessarily that we have to like everybody and everything, but with the end in mind we put love into practice

Jesus command to love the enemies and be different from the world in our actions is connected to our spiritual life. When it comes to our faith, we don’t need to resort to violence and quid pro quo. When it comes to witnessing what we believe, love is the hallmark and the blueprint of our actions. We have the end in mind, God’s desire to save all.

        There are then two other situations:

_Civil realm. When we have the right to something that is within our rights or to denounce crimes, abuses and wrong situations, we go to the civil authorities and do what needs to be done. “Jesus is not condemning civil rights. He is talking to Christians about Christian life and where do they motivation to do things come from. The intention of Torah was not trying to get even with everybody and assure one`s own `rights`.[6] Jesus is not preventing us from pursuing civil rights. He is calling His disciples to a life where they are willing to sacrifice their own human emotions and feelings when they’ll lead you to go astray from God’s will, and to stick to principles in which you were taught and on which you stand. Act from what you have inside, and do not react to stimulations from outside.

_When the Church stands for the truth - The situations in the Bible where firmness, even harshness was needed are connected to divisions, false teaching, false religion, threats inside the Church, and the like. Some examples:

_Jesus cleansing the temple;[7]

_John the Baptist to the Pharisees;[8]

_Paul rebuking Peter;[9]

_Romans 16:13;

_1 John – If you don’t love your brother, you cannot love God;

_Even in the Old Testament God’s harsh words about punishment are always connected to idolatry and abandonment.[10]

As the Church, we could say: The sheep we tend; the wolves we fight. The difference is that we don’t act firmly just because we want to cancel somebody, nullify them, show them “who’s in charge”. We don’t act out of a selfish desire of proving ourselves superior. We act out of love for our neighbour, for the preaching of the Law is not and end in itself, but points to the forgiveness and new life in Christ.[11] The main point is that we will only do that which will not lead us away from Christ, and which will point people to Christ.[12]

        Now here’s the thing: even when we are standing firm for what is right, whether in the Church or in the world, we still can act out of patience, kindness and love. Jesus Himself was never shy of being firm with those who were His enemies, but he always showed love, especially in the fact that He gave His life for them too! Our goal as we speak the truth in love is always to establish God’s Word and Truth. If we are fighting for something such as destroying somebody, to show who the boss is, to humiliate somebody  - that we should rethink.[13]

        The overarching theme in this passage could be put this way: where does your motivation to act comes from. Does is stem from other people’s behavior or does it stem for your faith? Do you depend on others attitudes, humor or ideologies, or on the teaching of His Word? Because what can be said about a Christian life style that goes: “Do and I`ll do. Be nice and I`1l be too.”? Well, that`s what Jesus says even the pagans do.  Can it show the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives?[14]

As children of God, we depend on God`s grace for salvation and we depend on this love as the principle to guide our deeds. And that`s precisely what will allow us to offer the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, etc... We will act guided not by other`s humor, temperament, ideologies, but by God`s principles grounded in His Word.

It is not that we need to be nonresistant people all the time; it is that we know we can choose how we will act based in Christ’s promises.

So here`s something very important: Jesus didn`t ask you to imitate your neighbour. He tells you to love him/her. That`s a constant, not a mood. God sends us to take principle-based attitudes. So they would not be self-based attitudes, not others-dependant attitudes, But Christ-rooted acts of love toward even our enemies. That`s what the Gospel of Christ is sending us to - to love our neighbour based not on his/her attitude but on the Word He has brought into our lives.[15]

 

Cc - As a final word, remember: whenever Jesus gives us a command, it is not Gospel; it is Law. It shows what we need to do, what we must do, but what we will eventually fail to do. The law requests us things from God’s perfect Will to which we constantly fail to live up to.

The Gospel, the good news lies in the fact that He continues to love us, offering forgiveness and peace, and lifting us up when we fall. It is available for you, for me, for all through faith.

We will then continue on in life loving God, loving our neighbor, loving our enemy, because we have the end in mind: to live and to love forever.

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[1] Romans 6
[2] Jesus is not preventing you of pursuing civil rights. That`s is not the point here. The point is to call his disciples “to lives of reckless generosity and naiveté. His teaching is hyperbolic – but that doesn`t mean he is not serious. His words are to reform our instincts, our quick reactions; our unwillingness to sacrifice”. (GIBBS, Jeffrey. Concordia Commentary. Matthew 1-11, p.302-3)]
[3]  “Do to others as you wish them to do to you” can be a lot more uncomfortable when we realize the punishment we deserve for our wrong thoughts, feelings and actions.
[4]SCHULLER, Arnaldo. Confessar e Confissoes. Vox Concordiana, Ano 2/3, 1986, pp. 5-11 
[5] JUST Jr., Arthur A. Luke 1:1-9:50. Concordia Commentary. St. Louis, CPH,  1996
[6]GIBBS, Jeffrey. Concordia Commentary. Matthew 1-11, p.302-3). Kleinig summarizes how the statements about retribution were intended to function, even on the level of legal interactions in non-Israelite societies: “The lex talionis (“law of retribution”), was already elaborated quite explicitly in Mesopotamia long before it was mentioned on the OT. It performed two very important functions there in the ancient Israel. First, it limited the scope for revenge, which always tended to escalate indiscriminately and endlessly on any tribal society. By it, the principle of equivalence was enshrined in the administration of justice. Second, it treated the life and body of every person as equal in value regardless of social, racial, and economic status.
[7] John 2.
[8] Matthew 3.
[9] Galatians 2:11-21.
[10] For example, the book of Jeremiah.
[11] Our Christian life communicates Christ to save people. However, instead of letting this become a burden (it's all up to me) or a reason for arrogance (I brought so-and-so to Christ with my life example), let's remember where this ability comes from: in Christ is both our will and accomplish. Here comes the importance of Christians themselves being constantly connected to Jesus, in Word and Sacraments, participating in worship, reading and meditating on the Word, receiving forgiveness for the constant failures in Christian living, and participating in communion with the brothers of the same faith.
[12]Did John the Baptist move away from Christ when he was fierce against hypocrites? Did Jesus move away from the Father’s will when he used His whip in the Temple? Did the apostles move away from the guidance of the Holy Spirit when they had to act strongly in some circumstances? They did not. Ultimately, those are all gestures of love, because the preached the law aiming the Gospel.
[13] The Church can be a factor of great influence in society, announcing the Gospel that transforms, encouraging its members to live this faith in daily life, putting and practicing the teachings, without false moralism or hypocrisy, but with the honesty that the Word recommends - saints and sinners. Still, the Church can contribute to society just by maintaining the notion of individuals reached by the love of God and who are responsible to him and to the world. This is our driving force for life in society: active faith in love.
[14] Should I depend on myself then, on my strength and my good will for doing good? Well, that`s not the way at all either. Think for a minute: what do you have in yourself that would guarantee good attitudes all the time? I can make a guess: nothing.  My attitude doesn’t depend on my own strength.
[15] So why would you do something like the Gospel for today calls you to? Because you want to serve. People will think it`s crazy. Some “good doers” of our time will think it is crazy. Even some of our friends or relatives will think it is. But that is the Gospel. Craziness for the human mind, but Salvation for the human heart.

 

 

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