1 Corinthians 1:1-9
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
But until that Day, it is well hidden for we are afflicted with sin like all who are on earth. Afflicted by our parents who handed it on to us. Afflicted by God who bound all under sin when our first parents sinned. He bound all creation to decay that all might long for, crave, and seek freedom from this affliction. And now in Christ we have it. But it is still partial, hidden. In Christ we have victory over sin, freedom from it’s ultimate consequences, we are saved, have eternal life, are assured of our Heavenly Father’s love. Yet we still sin. That is not yet removed from us. We are still afflicted by and struggle with that sinful desire in us which soils and taints us, disgraces and embarrasses us. So until that Day we still grieve over how we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves, and how we have not loved God above all else.
For this is indeed the first and greatest commandment. This means that among our many sins the most grievous we commit are those committed against God. Our lack of love for Him is horrifying. Our living our lives without thinking of Him, without talking to Him, our living in ways that dishonour His name, our distrust of His Word, our doubting of His promises, our disregarding the things He asks of us means we do not love Him. Our not wanting to spend time with Him is the ultimate height of sin run a muck in mankind.
Of the 70-some percent of the world who say they believe in God, if asked, “Do you love God?” most would say, “Of course!” But what does it mean to love God, let alone to love anyone? Does it not mean to desire to be with them? To care for them? To think of them? To talk and communicate with them? To want to hear their inner most thoughts? To want to know, understand, and be with them? To desire the best for them? Etc.?
If a man who had a good 9-5 job in the same town as his wife never spent any time with her, had a separate house, never talked to her, never saw her, didn’t even support her financially would you believe him when he said he loved her? Of course not. Would you wonder if they were really married? Or course.
For love is not a concept you merely talk about. It is something that you live out. If you love something your actions, your life will reflect that love. So of all those who believe in God, who supposedly love Him, if they have no desire to be with Him, to hear from Him, to talk to Him, to give to what He values, to receive His gifts of love, is their “love” actually love? Or is it just a vanity they flatter themselves with?
If so many in our world love Him why is the world filled with so much suffering? With so much behaviour that denies Him? With so much lovelessness? Why are the afflictions of the righteous so many?
The afflictions of the righteous are many because no one, not even those declared right with God, truly love Him. None of us really trust Him. None of us cling to His Word as we ought. This is what it means that we are sinners. We do not love God aright. Therefore, we can not love others and it shows.
For our desires are soiled with sin and self-love. This is the human default so that without intentional forethought our habits exclude God, so that even we Christians rarely ponder making Him a regular part of our lives.
To that aim at the end of the month our church is embarking on an effort to encourage you to read God’s Word. To feed yourself on it. To make a holy habit of being in His Word daily, of drawing near to Him, of seeking Him where He may be found, to be in His presence, to hear from Him, to know His love, and in small part to reciprocate His love to Him and the world.
People accuse Christians of lovelessness toward others of not practicing what they preach. But we Christians must accuse ourselves and repent, firstly, of lovelessness toward our God. For apart from faith in Him we have no love to give others. This is what all the Old Testament prophets proclaimed: the daily calling to repentance, to faith in God, and to love for your neighbour.
Loving God is about loving Our Lord Jesus. For He is the Father’s Anointed One, which is what Messiah or Christ means. He is God Our Father’s Prophet, Priest, and King anointed to proclaim the Father’s love, anointed to sacrifice Himself to secure the Father’s love, anointed to rule us in the Father’s love.
Many are our afflictions but the Lord delivers us out of them all. For He is our King of Love who rescues and saves His people, our Priest who in love sacrificed Himself, our Prophet who comforts God’s people with the promise of His love.
And so we wait for the Lord. We wait for His deliverance from whatever light and momentary afflictions we undergo now. For even if He should call you to be martyred for Him in the midst of all you suffer He will sustain you until the End. For He is your God. He is your praise. He has won peace for you through His terrible suffering on the cross and His victory over death is yours.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON