God’s Love for the Little Ones

 

 

38John said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

      42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:38–50)

 

1 Peter 3:8-12 8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”

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‘I’ and ‘We’

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Increasingly today, we unashamedly pursue our own means for our own ends. It is a temptation for which everyone contends.  ‘We’ do not want to listen to others because ‘we’ are right and ‘they’ are not.  ‘We’ are reasonable, but ‘they’ are unreasonable.  ‘We’ know better than ‘they’ do.

Translate these into the singular and you will see yourself having done and doing the same.  It is the plight of American individualism, and shows its egotistical head at many a corner.

We are conceived into such a state that we define life to be all about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ want (Psalm 51:5).  What someone else says, independent of their position, does not matter.  What matters are ‘my’ wants, ‘my’ needs, ‘me, me, me.’

Yet in Christ, God demonstrates something other than individualism, self-centeredness, and self-absorption.  In Christ, God demonstrates love for another, love for the sinner, love for the selfish, love for the very people who think themselves to be the center of the universe—love for you.

 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

In Christ, God demonstrates a love for you without condition, a love without partiality, a love unmerited and undeserved.

This is how God works, not thinking of Himself, but loving the unloved, the unlovable, and the unloving, because “God IS Love” (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16).

The one who believes that God is this way towards him does not remain selfish and self-absorbed, for such is not the way of Christ.  The way of Christ is to give, and to put others before oneself.  The way of Christ is not to ignore God’s Word because of personal needs and to put oneself above all others, but to “deny oneself,” bear the cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  The way of Christ is to repent of selfish idolatry and to live in service of those in need. The way of Christ is to conform to the will of Christ, to cast aside “self-ambition and conceit,” to seek the “interests of others,” and to pursue my neighbor’s well-being.

 

Quote

“The New Testament has a great deal to say about ‘the people of Christ, the ‘we.’  But ‘we’ often overlook what Scripture says because we are thinking ‘I.’ Good old American individualism is alive and well in the Church, and it determines how we read the Bible.  American religiosity is all about ‘me.’”  (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 115)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for my selfishness, for neglecting the needs of others, and for putting myself first, even before You and Your Holy Word.  Change my heart that I deny my own wants and desires and seek to do what pleases You, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

What does the Bible teach about love and tolerance?

The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (1 John 4:10; see also John 3:16; Romans 4:7-8; 5:8).  God’s love extends to everyone, yet God’s love is not to be equated with tolerance as popularly defined today (i.e. acceptance of idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, false doctrine, etc.)  God does indeed condemn all sin, but there is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:3-5), for Jesus came to save sinners by means of His death on the cross.    Sinners who love the Lord seek to please God and not the world (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:22; 1 John 2:15; see John 14:21-24).

God Sent His Son that the World might be Saved through Him

For God so loved the world…What precious words these are! Precious indeed! They are our true hope and consolation, for by them, we are certain of God’s love towards us, because God the Father has indeed sent His Son. God the Father has indeed sent His Son, that by His blood your sin not be debted against you.

Take these words to heart. Let them sink down, for only in God sending His Son and the Son being sent and lifted up on the tree of death in crucifixion is your salvation. God did so love the world. And God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is not conditioned on the response, on the belief or unbelief, of that love with which God so loves the world. If it was, then all who do not love Him still would never know the God of love. Even we, before coming to know the love of God in Jesus Christ for ourselves, would never know, for if God loves only those who love Him, very few indeed would ever know of His love.

But God’s love is not only for the believer and they who will believe. For the worst of sinners and for ungodly people God sent His Son into the world. This doesn’t make sense. It seems utter nonsense. Who in our day would give something for nothing in return. Who would freely bestow a gift to someone only to have it rejected? This is ludicrous. Who would give their very life for someone when that life would not be wanted? Who would spend their all to help someone without even a thanks or without a nod of appreciation?…

Jn03.1-17, Lent 2, 2011A.pdf

Be Perfect?!

Upon two commandments, Jesus says, hang all the Law and the Prophets. The first is to Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). The first commandment here has to do with faith to God. The second has to do with love for neighbor. It is this second commandment which draws our attention in today’s Gospel reading. It is according to this commandment whereby we demonstrate whose we are in this life, whether we are of our own or whether we are of the Lord.

To be Christian does not mean simply to confess the Christian faith with the mouth. This anyone can do. And truly, there are many who merely say that they are Christian. They speak the Creed. They say that they are sinners. They say that they are Christian. They hold membership in a Christian congregation. Yet they don’t exhibit the very things that Jesus is talking about in our text. They hold grudges. They backbite. They do not forgive. They raise dissention and quarrel any chance they get. Their actions truly do speak louder than their words…

Mt05.38-48, Epiphany 7, 2011A.pdf

Reflections on Luke 14:25-35

25Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25–35)

In the above Gospel, Jesus says some pretty startling things.  He speaks of hating members of your own family, hating yourself, bearing your cross, and renouncing all that you have.  If you do not do these things, Jesus says, you cannot be His disciple.

Wait a minute!  I thought God gave the commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, 4th Commandment).  He commands fathers and mothers to love their children (Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4), husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5; Colossians 3:19), and, in general, to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; etc.).  Our Lord also says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

And with reference to cross, isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easier than when one becomes Christian.  What does Jesus mean when He says that every disciple is to “bear his own cross”?

At first glance, Jesus’ word, “hate,” might seem to contradict what we find elsewhere in the Bible.  But in actuality, it doesn’t.  Jesus is not here speaking of emotion.  He’s speaking of distinguishing between earthly and heavenly things.  It is true—God does command us to love one another—unconditionally, unequivocally, and unselfishly (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13).  But our Lord differentiates between what is to be first from what is not.

A related passage is in Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37, italics mine).

It’s a matter of true worship and honor of God or idolatry.  “No one can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13).  In the same way, no one can have God first and parent, child, spouse, self or anyone or anything else.  It’s an either/or kind of thing.  And this is just our problem.  God is not first in our lives.  If He was, everywhere and all the time, we wouldn’t doubt, we wouldn’t complain, we would willingly suffer the things said against us and the things done to us because we do what God desires.  As it is, however, we are not as God desires.  We put ourselves first, our families, our finances, our friends, and our time (i.e. on Sundays when we ought to be in the Word).

What these words of our Lord show us is that none are able, of themselves, to be His disciples.  Our crosses we want to throw off.  Our burdens we don’t want to carry.  The Christian life, we think, should be easier, not harder.  The Christian shouldn’t suffer as he/she does.  In effect, we aren’t able to be Jesus’ disciple because of who we are by nature, because of what we do, because of our sin.

The truth is—none are the Lord’s disciple because of who he/she is.  We are sinners—not worthy of the Lord—not worthy to be called disciple.  But no disciple who is a disciple is a disciple of themselves, by themselves, for themselves, or in their own strength.

God calls the unworthy, the sinner, the unable—to be His people.  It is such that Jesus came to deliver and save.  The disciple of our Lord recognizes this—that his/her worthiness is not his/her own, but Christ’s.  Therefore does Jesus say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The disciple of our Lord recognizes his need, and looks to Jesus for help and aid, forgiveness and salvation.  Thus will he/she also struggle and fight within, that Christ and His Word be first, and not something other.  So also does the disciple of the Lord seek to forsake all, for Christ is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  Christ is his everything, and where Christ is not, the disciple repents and seeks to do better.  And by God’s grace, he does, God giving strength to do so through His means of Word and Sacrament.  These, too, the disciple of our Lord seeks and desires, for they are His life, for there, God forgives sins and gives life and strength, and keeps His people in the faith.  Those who deny and refuse such gifts and blessings of our Lord show that they are not of the Lord and do not love God above all things, for they do not believe themselves to be in need of such help.  By doing so, they show that they are not disciples of the Lord, but disciples of another.

Let each one remain in the same calling…

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

1 Corinthians 7:20

Discontentment and dissatisfaction are rampant among us.  We are not happy with the way things are.  Things are not as we want them to be.  We don’t have ‘enough’ money, time, or resources to do what we think we should.  Even our ‘jobs’ sometimes (and for some, more than others) have the taste of mundaneness and even displeasure.

The Christian, too, struggles with such things.  They are not immune to the desires of the flesh.  And at times, they can be overwhelming, so overwhelming, in fact, that just doing anything becomes a challenge.  It is a blessing of God that one be joyful in his work, whether that work be inside or outside the home.  It is also a blessing of God that one delights serving Him according to His Word wherever he is and however God would have him serve within his calling.

Discontentment and dissatisfaction breeds contempt and does not come from God.  Rather does contentment and satisfaction come from Him who gives everything—freely and without a contribution from us (Ecclesiastes 3:12; 5:18-20).

Only the Christian knows such contentment and joy with the things of God.  Life is hard.  Being a Christian does not mean that things will get ‘easier.’  It may be just the opposite.  But the Christian has Christ, his “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  And it is because of Christ that the Christian has a confidence and zeal “for the Lord,” even as things don’t appear as he would like or as he thinks they should be.  It is because of Christ that the Christian has such confidence before God that God will not judge him a sinner because of his sin.  And it is because of Christ, who has done everything already, that the Christian joyfully goes about his work, fulfilling his calling as God has called him, whatever that calling may be, and however thankless that calling might seem.  One who has confidence in the Lord in His calling because of Christ will strive to serve to the best of his ability, and thanks the Lord for such work which pleases God and serves neighbor.

Lord, grant us such confidence.  Amen.

Luther

If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p12)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Giver of all good gifts, forgive us for taking for granted all that you freely give to us, even the very callings to which you have called us as parent, spouse, child, citizen, worker, Your baptized child and member of Your Church.  Forgive us for resenting you for placing us where we are, for being frustrated with our circumstances, and for neglecting the responsibilities of our calling.  Help us to trust in You, and to do better, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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