Sermon – April 22, 2018

Galatians Cover

Galatians 5:13-15 – Grace to Love Your Neighbor (mp3)

One of the toughest commands placed upon us by Christ our Lord is to love our enemies. It is only by not thinking through what is being asked of us that many of us don’t balk more at the request: given that the same Christ said in the same sermon that persecution was to come our way, how are we to love those who seek our harm, even to our deaths? Although slightly eased, the same question applies to our neighbors – what empowers us to act in this way?

1. Freed from your flesh to become holy
One of the gravest mistakes that we can make as Christians is thinking that the work of Christ is summed up in the forgiveness of our sin. Such an understanding of the work of Christ can open up many opportunities for the flesh; after all, if forgiveness is the purpose for why Christ came, sinning to create more need for forgiveness magnifies Christ’s work! But such thoughts are nonsense; Christ came, lived, died; Paul preached, worked, strove, not simply to allow forgiveness to thrive, but to make believers holy. Allowing sin to flourish, we can easily be given over to using others for our own selfish ends – biting and devouring them. The end result is not our exultation, but our own destruction!

2. Freed from your needs to become servants
Yet, we know that many people, not moved by the Spirit, do what appear to be good things. How can doing what is good be wrong? When we work in our flesh, we end up only doing good things for our own benefit – we love others for ourselves, not as ourselves. But the gift of Christ frees us from these needs. He has provided everything that we need, so we are no longer restricted in our giving. We can give freely, without hindrance, not worrying about our acceptance in the world, loss of worldly goods, mocking, insults, persecutions, even from our enemies. We need nothing from them, therefore, we are free to give them out of the great abundance that Christ has given to us. How can we do this?

a) Love your neighbor in evangelism
No gift is greater than the knowledge of the good news that Christ has freed us from sin and death, a gift freely given and apprehended by faith. We have nothing greater by which we can love our neighbors!

b) Love your neighbor in prayer
As Christ instructs us to love our enemy, specifically by praying for them, it is likely something that we should do! Ask God, not just to make the world right, but to draw to himself even your enemy. After all, we too were once enemies of God.

c) Love your neighbor in suffering
There is no greater demonstration of your love for others than when they do not love you. Not only do you demonstrate your great love for them, but you demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ love for you. During such times, it is obvious that you are not loving them for your own sake, but for their sake; and, what’s more, that this very Christ has given you all you need.

If Christ is the supreme joy of your life, apprehended by faith, then all your needs are met. No longer are you dependent on the world to provide you with what you need in life, but you know well that God the Father provides them to you abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is indeed the good Samaritan, who has found us dead by the side of the road and loved us by giving his life for ours. But that is not the end of the story. His love empowers us, by faith working through the Spirit, that we might go, and do likewise.