Dear Members of Faith,
I’m thankful for you and for being able to worship together (in-person or virtually) each week. I’m thankful for God’s words of guidance in our lives. You heard some of those words last weekend. Continue to listen to his good words of guidance today.
Once St. Paul reminded the Romans of God’s design for a Christian congregation. Paul wrote to them, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (12:4,5).
A physical body has many members (parts) such as eyes, hands, a head, etc. These members are connected and belong to each other. Members of a Christian congregation have the privilege of being together in the body of Christ. Not necessarily being together in the same room all the time, but being together in unity.
Consider the unity of Christ’s body that is called Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church. Are you together as one body in Christ? Or are there divisions among you? Maybe you’ve noticed it, or maybe not. But my Brothers and Sisters, I and others have heard and seen that “there are quarrels among you” (1 Cor 1:11) where God wants no quarrels to be. And this body of Christ is hurting because of those quarrels.
Have we begun to forget about love? Let us hear St. Paul in Romans 13 concerning love, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (v. 8). Usually debt is something we don’t want to remain outstanding. Debt to love one another is different though. Paul’s point is to never stop loving one another.
Paul then summed up God’s commandments like this, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Ro. 13:9). God’s 4th commandment to love one’s neighbor goes like this, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Do you remember how Martin Luther explained that commandment? “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.” Did you catch it? We love our neighbor by honoring our father and mother and “others in authority.”
Isn’t it interesting that in Romans 13 St. Paul talks about the “governing authorities” (v. 1)? The national, state, and local authorities are neighbors we are to love by honoring them. We can do so by being subject to them (v. 1), that is, by submitting to them. If we “rebel against them” (“resist them” in the original Greek), Paul says we are “rebelling against what God has instituted” and we “will bring judgment” on ourselves (v. 2). It’s also “a matter of conscience” (v. 5).
What if we think the government is telling us to do something contrary to God’s will? Paul reminds us that “the one in authority is God’s servant” (Ro. 13:4). Sometimes the government clearly tells Christians to disobey God. Then the government is no longer God’s servant, but is God’s enemy. An example would be the Jewish government that gave “strict orders” to the apostles “not to teach in [Jesus’] name” (Acts 5:28). In that case it was clear for the apostles to disobey the government. God guides us to trust that as long as the government does not clearly tell us to disobey His will, we will take the governments “words and actions in the kindest possible way” (Explanation to the 8th commandment).
Let’s ask ourselves, “Have we begun to stop loving our authoritative neighbor, which is the government? If so, has this led to dishonoring the government? And if that is so, have we failed to love our neighbor that we’re sitting next to in the pew or conversing with elsewhere?”
There’s lack of unity in Christ’s body at Faith Lutheran due to lack of love for our neighbor. What’s the antidote? A dose of law to show us our sin. We’ve had that dose. We also need a healthy dose of gospel to show us our Savior.
We are sorry for our sin, so we run to God for his love. He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God loved the world by giving Jesus to save it. God loved your world by sending Jesus to save you (“whoever believes in him shall … have eternal life”).
Never forget that “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Ro. 8:32). God has given us the greatest and best gift - Jesus our Savior, who died and rose for us! God will certainly follow through and actually give us eternal life through faith in that Savior.
Additionally, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). We have been called to faith by God. We love him as our God. He will work things out for good for us, who love him. In fact, a good thing he has worked out for us is giving us a government. It is his “servant for your good” (Ro. 13:4). The government is there to bear the sword “to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The government keeps order so that we are safe. And if the government should treat us unjustly we respond with patience and love like Jesus did when the Romans crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).
God forgives each of us for any division(s) we have caused among us. He has forgiven us for any lack of love. As his forgiven children, he graciously invites us to use our varied gifts to together build up Christ’s body. By his love we live together in harmony and love each other continually. Amen.
Lord, you have graciously made each of us a part of Christ’s body to together build up his body. What a privilege and responsibility this is. Your love for us continues to hold us together as one body of believers. Let us continually be filled with your love so that in our interactions with each other we are able to reflect your love. According to your will and in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Love in Christ is strong and living,
Binding faithful hearts in one;
Love in Christ is true and giving –
May his will in us be done!
(CW 490, “Love in Christ is Strong and Living, v. 1)
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