Sermon based on Mt. 22:34-46
Dear loved children of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Love. That’s it. That is the Law and the Prophets. Love is the only thing demanded form us by the Law and the Prophets. Love. It sounds so simple.
The world will agree. It’s all about love. Love is the answer for every problem in the world. But what is the world’s concept of love? The world says that you just need to have a loving and accepting attitude towards others. You just need to be tolerant and non-judgmental. In reality, the world’s idea of love is really nothing except an expression of tolerance for sin. The world says that love means not saying anything when those around you sin; that love means not opposing homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, drug use, pornography, and whatever else the world loves to do. The world’s idea of love is to not get in the way of someone else doing whatever they want, so that they will not get in the way of you doing whatever you want. Thus, as long as I am loving and accepting of others, I can do whatever I want.
What kind of a concept of love is this? Love isn’t something that you decide how to express or show. God has already told you how to love your neighbour – He gave you the Ten Commandments. And as Paul writes in Romans 13[:9 – 10], “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Love is the fulfilment of the Law because if you love your neighbour, you won’t steal from him. If you love your neighbour, you won’t sleep with his wife. If you love your neighbour, you will not seek to benefit at his expense. It is for this reason that Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets depend on love – loving your neighbour as yourself. Love is the fulfilment of the Law.
Herein we see the problem. We do not love our neighbours as ourselves. We do not put the needs of others above our needs. We are selfish and we love ourselves. As simple as the Law sounds with its command to love, we fail miserably to fulfil the command. And it’s not just our enemies that we don’t love as we should. It is our friends and families. We don’t love our parents, our siblings, or our children as we should. We fight over everything from taking care of elderly parents to inheritances. We are even selfish when it comes to showing love to our spouse.
Loving others is the second great commandment. The first is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That sounds simple enough, too. Just love God. Yet we fail at this command even worse than the other. You know the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods. “What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” (SC I.1). Yet we fail to love God when we look for good from someone or something other than God. We fail to love God when we don’t feel secure without money in our bank accounts and food in our fridges. If we would fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we would not fear whatever He might put into our lives. We would have no fear of terrorism like it Ottawa last week. We would have no fear of natural disasters like the flood which hit our area recently. We would have no fear of disease or illness, whether one which already inflicts us or one which threatens, like Ebola. If we loved God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, we would say, “Come what may, I have nothing to fear or worry about. I have no fear for my children. I have no fear of my next medical exam. I have no fear of financial hardship.”
Once again, herein lies the problem. We do not love God above all things. We do not love. As simple as the command is to love, we just don’t do it.
But before we despair completely and no longer want to hear about love, we should realize that our despair arises from the fact that we are talking about our love. If our salvation depended on our love, we would be lost. But our salvation does not depend on our love or our fulfilment of the Law which demands that we love.
Jesus fulfilled the Law of love for us. The Son of God came down from heaven and put Himself under the Law in order to keep all of God’s commandments perfectly for us [Gal. 4:4-5]. Jesus lived a perfect life of love and obedience to the Father’s will, not just to be an example for us, but to fulfil the Law of God on our behalf. Jesus bore our sin of not loving on the cross, and gave us His love. In our baptism, He covered us with His love. Now, when God the Father looks at us, He does not see our sin. Our sin is covered by Jesus. Our sin is forgiven. In Christ, we have fulfilled the Law.
So our salvation is not because of our love, but God’s love. John writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins [1 Jn. 4:10].” Jesus was the propitiation, that is, the satisfaction of the demands of the Law. He fulfilled the love that the Law demands and satisfied the Law’s demands.
Jesus loved the Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. And He loved His neighbour more than Himself – He loved His neighbour to the point that He gave up His own life on the cross for His neighbour.
And this gets very personal for you. Not only did Jesus fulfil the Law for you, but He fulfilled the Law by loving you. His death on the cross was for you. And the love that the Law demands Jesus still shows towards you. He is patient with you, showing His longsuffering even when you sin against Him.
Even though Jesus is God, He humbled Himself to the point of dying for you. He showed love to you in every way the Law demands. Jesus was not selfish, but sought your salvation. He was self-sacrificing – He sacrificed His very life for you. Jesus does not bear a grudge when you sin, but He forgives, even when you sin against Him repeatedly. And Jesus’ longsuffering is seen not just in His death for you, but also in that He endures all that you still put Him through with your sins.
See, it’s not our love that we need, but God’s love. And His love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit [Rom. 5:5]. God fills us with His love, so that we can then love Him [1 Jn. 4:19]. God fills us with His love so that we can then love our neighbour.
We will continue to struggle with loving others because of our great weakness, but our focus should not be on our weakness, but on God’s strength. Our focus should not be on our love, but on God’s love. And God promises us that nothing can separate us from His love in Christ Jesus our Lord [Rom. 8:38 – 39].
Love. That’s it. That is the Law and the Prophets. Love. It sounds so simple, and it is. Jesus showed His love for us by fulfilling everything demanded by the Law and the Prophets for us. So our salvation does not depend on our love, but on the love which God has already shown us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.