Let us pray: Dear Savior, how we long for love in this life! Surrounded by moral dirt, nasty people, and more worries than we can count, how we long to be enveloped by love—from You and from others. Today we thank You for continuing to give us huge doses of Your eternal love again, again, and again. Thank You for not withdrawing it or pulling away from us. Yes, without Your love, we have nothing and we are nothing. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF LOVE!
TEXT: Matthew 22: 37-40 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Epitaphs on tombstones have always interested me. Not because I’m ghoulish, but because it says something about the person long gone from this mortal coil. I’ve read many clever epitaphs and some silly ones, too, in graveyards throughout New England. And, I must confess, I’ve always wondered what I would like engraved on my tombstone someday. Well, as I studied this text this past week, I hit on exactly what I want my epitaph to be. In a sense, it will serve as a final sermon to people who walk by, long after I’m off to heaven. And the words I want engraved on my headstone are this verse from I John 4:8: “God is love.”
I’ve picked that because it encapsulates the faith I believe and the faith I’ve preached throughout my ministry. And, and, that truth is eternal. It cannot change. It will not change. It will last forever, even after this planet and the whole universe are destroyed. When St. Paul distills the fruits and blessings of the Holy Spirit in I Cor. 13 he says: “These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Why does he say that? Because ultimately, “God is love.”
So, the point of this lesson for us along with application for our lives is this:
LOVE MAKES GOD’S WORLD GO ROUND….
Why did God give us the 10 commandments? Why did He place all those do’s and don’ts upon us? Why did He spell out their impossible standard of behavior, knowing all the while that none of us could ever attain it? Listen carefully to how Christ describes the meaning of the commandments: “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Who of us has ever done so? None. What mere human can ever live up to this high calling? None. Our love for God is imperfect. Our love for our neighbor, our fellow humans, is even more imperfect. And yet, God still tells us, demands of us that we: love. Why? Why ask the impossible? Because “God is love.” Everything is about Him. Everything revolves around Him. Love makes His world go round. And to say or do otherwise, to demand anything less from us would mean that God really didn’t want us to know Who or What He is all about.
Christ goes on to say: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” By now, since I’ve harped on it over the years, you should know that when Jesus says: “Law and the Prophets” He’s talking about the entire Old Testament. That phrase is a short-hand code word for the Hebrew Bible that the Jews had and revered. By now, you also know that when you’re talking about the O.T. in its entirety you have two chief thoughts or teachings running throughout that are diametrically opposed to each other. You have the Law and the Gospel. You have God’s demands upon us and God’s forgiveness for our inability to carry them out. You have demands concerning human works which are always tainted by sin and you have God’s forgiving love handed out in and through the promises about the coming Christ. So, the question is: how can the whole Bible including the commandments hang on the keeping of the Law? Where is salvation if honoring God and loving your neighbor is to be first and foremost in your life? That’s right. It’s unattainable from our vantage point! Again, St. Paul says it best: “The good that I want to do, I don’t do, and the evil that I don’t want to do, this I keep on doing!” So, our love is faulty. Our love cannot save. Our love breaks down every single day.
And yet, “God is love.” His commandments are an expression of what that love means to Him. And most importantly of all for us, God’s love moved Him to send us a Savior to give us what we can never possess on our own: Divine love and forgiveness. Recall John 3: 16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son.”
The point is: God is love. And both His judgmental commandments and His forgiveness for our lack of keeping them come together in love in, with, and through Jesus Christ! For Jesus came to earth, was born in a manger, suffered greatly while here and died on a bloody cross to show and to give us that impossible blessing—God’s love. Do you always put God first in your life? Do you never, ever blame God when something goes wrong? Do you always worship Him and never miss a Sunday? Do you honor parents and governing authorities and always obey them? Have you never hated another or wished them harm? Have you never been tempted by lust? Have you never stolen anything, including from your employer by spending “goof-off” time while supposedly working? Have you never gossiped and run-down another’s reputation? Have you always viewed another person’s home as their little slice of heaven on earth, and been content with your own in the exact same manner? Have you never been greedy for what another person has? All of us have broken the 10 commandments more times than we could ever count. And yet, because God is love, He sent Christ to never break any commandments. He sent Christ, Who kept every one of them—perfectly—for us! He sent Christ to die on a cross to appease and erase God’s anger against us. Yes, because God is love, He did all this. He extended His very essence to us in Christ! Moreover, God had to do this! Why? Because God is love! He had to tell us the truth of what He expects from us and He had to forgive us in Christ when we turned our backs on that truth. This is the meaning of: God is love. This is the meaning behind Christ’s words: “All the Law and the Prophetshang on these two commandments.”
You can do one of two things when another extends love towards you. You can reject their love or you can accept it, grasp it, and revel in it. The same is true with God’s love. You can believe it and seek, however imperfectly to show it, or you can turn your back on it and walk away from it. If you do the latter, life will hold no real answers or lasting comfort for you. If you do the former, you’ll not only cope with troubles, you’ll be victorious and joyful over them. You’ll be loving, because you’ll be love-filled. It cannot be otherwise, my friends. For “God is love.” And Love Makes God’s World Go Round….Amen