First Sunday after Trinity
“Love and Hate”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 16.19-31; 1 John 4.16-21
14 June 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Last Sunday we heard from St. John’s Gospel our Lord Jesus tell Nicodemus that to enter the Kingdom of God one must be born again or born from above by the sacred baptism of water and the Spirit. Such a born again person with faith in Christ is given the overwhelming love of the Father – that love that gave His only-begotten Son to be lifted up before the whole world, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Now in John’s epistle comes this stark reality check from the apostle: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 Jn. 4.19-21)
There is God’s all-abiding and no strings attached, self-sacrificing love. And there is the world’s self-serving hatred. The apostle has already explained earlier in 1 John 3 that the devil has been sinning “from the beginning” – from Genesis onward – and whoever makes a practice of sinning is from the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning – there are children of God, and children of the devil. (1 John 3.7-10) Whoever does not practice righteousness, does not love his brother – is not of God, has rejected the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God.
Then the Apostle points us to an example from Genesis. From Genesis onward the message from God has been to love one another says John. Thus we should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother Abel. Cain, the gotten one, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, looked to with such great hope for the future by his parents, taught to make right worship to the Lord, but gives a less than faithful offering of his harvest. Abel, the man named by his parents “nothing” or “vanity” – as if one son was enough and this second had no place – gave far from nothing, giving the spotless firstborn lamb from his flock. God ignored Cain’s vain offering, and accepted Abel’s faithful offering.
Cain out of jealousy and in great hatred ignored God’s Word of warning, rose up, and killed his brother Abel. Why? His own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Those who are of the world hate those who abide in God’s love, who walk in His righteous ways.
One of our talented young pastors up in Fort Wayne who teaches at Concordia Lutheran High School gave an online devotion on the school’s Facebook page this week. Pastor Chad Hoover masterfully urged everyone in these difficult days to follow the Apostle Peter’s words, which are God’s Word: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.16-17) As Christians, Pastor Hoover said, we are to live honorably and so proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, that while on this sojourn through this life we are to abstain from the passions of the flesh. Live honorably. Honor everyone. Treat everyone with love and dignity.
So very timely. It was well said and gently said. The forgiveness and love of God in Christ was held forth as a comfort for all to take hold of.
But, a crowd of riotous Facebook commenters, many claiming to be alumnae of the school, influenced more by what they’ve learned in college and university than what they’ve learned at that Lutheran High School, have unleashed vitriol and hatred for this proclamation of God’s Word. They stormed the comments. They have been deceived by the world and they urged that only a message of vengeance upon those they perceive as privileged and racist ought to be proclaimed by the School, and that all behavior toward that goal of vengeance for past racial wrongs should simply be excused as God-pleasing since it advances this goal the world has said is so important. The commenters do not want to hear God’s Word to them that all our conduct as Christians must show love and honor for everyone around them. Fear God. Show honor to everyone, even the emperor – even if they are wrong, evil, or thinks differently than you do. That’s not a politically correct message in today’s reality. So the school is being put through the ringer, even taken to the local media in Fort Wayne for chastising and political purification. So far the school has not taken down the devotion.
Do not be surprised brothers, that the world hates you, and the Christian Scriptures, and your Christian pastor, and your hymns, catechism, and all else you treasure and hold dear. Do not be surprised that so many hate others so easily. The devil has long been at work. Cain killed his brother Abel out of hatred. The rich man despised and in his own way murdered poor Lazarus – he did not help or befriend him in every bodily need. It is love and hate, life and death.
Or take it this way: There is a great chasm fixed between Abraham’s bosom and the fires of hell. No one can cross it. There is no middle ground. There is God’s love for you and for all men in Jesus Christ, there is God’s self-giving love, the love we are called to reflect to those around us. And there is hatred and no love. There is no in-between. There’s not giving it a good try or doing one’s best and hoping God sort of excuses us like a doting grandpa. There is God’s love, and there is nothing else – which is to be beholden to the devil. We really do see this in the world today, quite clearly. It’s there in the example I’ve just placed before you – the clear despising of God’s Word of comfort and how to live peaceably with others. Failure to love God and neighbor is there in the racist. It’s there in the angry commentators. It’s there in the looters and anarchists.
What about you? Are you children of the devil, or children of God born from above by water and the Spirit? It is easy to hate those who hate us back. It is easy to despise those who bring harm upon us, despise those who seek the overthrow of good things we hold dear, like our nation and its ability to govern itself. We are not called to love only those who are just like us, only those who agree with us in politics, in morality, in you name it. There is no giving Jesus a “ten” on the love scale, and putting everyone else somewhere on the scale below. We have passed out of death into life, the Apostle John reminds us, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
So there is no picking and choosing really who to love and who not to love. You should and must be willing to freely love anyone God brings into your life: with hearts united we love each other, every stranger, sister, and brother, these we must love. By this we know true and genuine love, the only love: that Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. We love as the Lord Jesus did, who gave His life for every sinner who ever sinned against Him. They were and are His brothers, even though some reject Him as their brother and reject His love. Some – the fallen world especially – will do that to us too, reject us even though we freely love them.
For us, to love the unlovable, to give everything, even our goods, even our life, for our brother in need of that love, that is the life of the born from above child of God. That is love that is born of water and the Holy Spirit that sets our hearts with sacred fire aglow for God and those whom He gives to us to love, our neighbors, our brothers.
“Faith in Christ,” preached Dr. Luther, “is not the kind of thing which lies there completely empty and dead, but wherever it lives in the heart, it must always demonstrate its power. Where this does not happen, the boasting is false and nothing. However, it is demonstrated that the fruits can be perceived when the human heart, filled with comfort and undoubted confidence in divine grace and love, is moved to be good, kind, gentle, and patient towards the neighbor; it neither envies nor hates anyone, but gladly serves everyone and, wherever there is a need, helps with body and life. These fruits demonstrate and testify that such a person has assuredly come out of death into life.” (LW vol. 78, pp. 77)
There is nothing more to do than bend the knee to God’s Word, to Christ, the living Word come down from heaven. Live each day as baptized born-from-above children of our Heavenly Father, repenting of where we have failed to rightly love our neighbor, and asking the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and give us the power, strength, and courage to take up our cross and follow the Lord through death into life. Live in and relish the love that God has first loved you with in Jesus Christ – eagerly receiving His forgiveness in absolution, and in the Holy Supper.
And as the world around us disintegrates and seems to only come apart at the seams more and more, and becomes more and more loveless towards those who love God and neighbor, remember and hold to this promise of God given by the Apostle John later, 1 John 5.4-5:
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Who is it that overcomes? You, who have been redeemed, bought by your Lord, brought from death into life, and given the new life of water and the Spirit. In Christ and His love for you, you shall overcome the world and see your Savior in the new creation to come.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +