This is my command: love one another.
Thank God for love, thank God for His Law. And of course, thank God for mothers without whom we would not be here, and neither would Jesus. Eve, the mother of all the living, broke the law of love and sinned; yet Mary the mother of the Resurrection and the Life, kept this law; more especially her Son through whom God’s infinite love is shown. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Law of love; for He lays down His life for you, who were His enemies, now by God’s loving grace His friends. And it’s not just that He died for you, yet also that He lives for you now and forever. His love is immense, wonderful, glorious and victorious!
This is the Gospel, God’s love for you. That in Him we are victorious we have overcome sin, death and the devil. And now He calls you to love, He commands you. This is His Law. As He has loved us, we must love Him; Just like John wrote, ‘this is love for God: to keep His commands’ (1 John 5:3). Of course we remember today the 4th commandment, ‘honour you father and mother that it will go well for you in the land’ the only commandment with a promise. So, the child shows their love for God in this life by honouring their parents, by loving them. And the parents must show love to the child otherwise things fall apart; disintegrate, the family dies. This is what we mean when we say the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If we fail to love God, if we fail to keep His commands, then things die; a broken arm, broken relationship, broken family, sometimes people become emotionally dead, and horrifically sometimes people die. This Law, this truth, is not abolished (Matthew 5:17); Yes Jesus fulfills it and united with Him we are separated from our sin, yet God’s Law, the Law of love still applies to you and me. It is the way of our New Life in Jesus, His way. We are commanded to love each other, to live our lives for each other, for our parents, our children, our bosses, our workers, our government, and our society. I’m grateful He’s narrowed 600 odd commands in the OT down to one, and this is that one command. You must love.
Do you? Do you desire what is best for those around you? Do you want God and His love to be known by all people, that wonderful relationship of His joy and peace? Do you live for your family, for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for those who do not yet know Him? Do you love? Or do you fail and cause pain, do you need help?
Last week we heard that Jesus is the True Vine, that apart from Him we can do nothing. And sometimes that’s obvious, so thank God we are not alone by ourselves and without help. We have each other, and more so we live with the Triune God. He has chosen you, adopted in Baptism and united with Him by the Holy Spirit. He has called you, not servants, but friends revealing the truth to you. And His Work changes you, united with the vine the saps changes you to a living branch. Listening and living with Jesus changes what you want and how you act; like an old faithful couple have worked through their difficulties and continue to grow closer, like the loving mother and child are changed and learn from each other. And He serves us here, as we listen to His Word about what love is, separation from sin, guilt and failure, reconciliation; He serves us rejuvenating our relationship with Him and each other, refreshing and sustaining us together, especially by His Body and Blood; sending us out with His promise of the Holy Spirit to walk with us, to change our desires and provide what we need.
And we need this help He provides, to keep His command. Which is how John can write that His command is not a burden, to live in love toward all people is only hard when we are overwhelmed by our guilt/failure, pain or torment. And yet, He has declared that in Him you have overcome these things. Hear again His Words, ‘You are forgiven! I sent you free from sin, death and the devil, and free to love.’ I wanna make sure this is clear: Jesus does not want you to burden yourself with this command to love, listen to Him not the world, He does not want you to be burdened and enslaved to a command, rather as He sets you free and provides us all we need. His teaching in scripture, from our brothers and sisters in Christ, of course Bible reading; turn to the psalms when you are struggling, I pray the Holy Spirit open your ears to His prayers. And your prayers, especially the Lord’s Prayer, where the Holy Spirit works on our hearts to conform our desires to His; may He remind you to pray in your struggles, to look to Jesus and His victory. And His presence most especially in the sacrament and also in gathering with other Christians in encouragement, not complaint rather talking about how God is at work in our lives, what He is teaching us, and certainly praying together, casting our burdens on Him who cares for you.
And so the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.