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Luke 10:29-37

 

But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (ESV)

Do Good to Perecutors

Monday of Pentecost 17

6 October 2014

Our opponents can't have it both ways either Christianity is wickedly bellicose, destructive, and murderous or it is passive, enervating and beneficial only for women and children. Our opponents have argued both ways and sometimes at the same time. How easily the Crusades are trotted out as exhibit one for the horrible viciousness that arises out of the Christian faith! Richard, Cœur de Lion, is used to show that Islam and Christianity are equivalent religions, that is, equally deluded. You see, they both have Jihad as part of their dogma: "Wipe out those unbelievers." Conveniently, this ignores the Christian religion's specific injunction that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us; no violent pay back for injuries real or imagine can be contemplated by the children of the King of love. If violence were perpetrated by people who claimed the name of Christian, they were outliers, men who perverted the religion of Christ. Suffice it to say that Islam has a harder time making that case, given the fact that its founder waged wars of extirpation against those who opposed him and his fanaticism. The founder of Christianity declined a military career in no uncertain terms and refused to wipe out His enemies (Lk 9:54-55).

 

But then maybe the Christian religion makes weaklings and slaves of those who trust the Nazarene. Our opponents criticize the church as only useful for women and children. Here is a not-too-subtle prejudice against women, labeling them weak and subject to religious fanaticism. Such opponents will also criticize the European churches for being full of only women and children. This is hardly fair, correct though it is to say that the European churches are populated by the distaff side of humanity. It is unfair to describe Christianity as a woman's religion and then to criticize the churches when they are full of women. And you say that Christianity is full of contradictions?! I think our opponents are giving us a run for our contradiction money.

 

Christianity threatens the piety of the world by denying to ordinary or worldly piety a place in the presence of God. Christianity does not want to displace ordinary or worldly piety in the world itself; in the home and society, but it categorically denies that such prosaic righteousness avails before God. This angers the world and leads the worldly-minded to accuse us of being the disturbers of civil tranquility and the quiet life. The Christian obeys the law for the good of his neighbor and not to gain brownie points with God. In that sense, Christians have a this-worldly basis for obedience to the law. We are much more practical than our worldly opponents. And although the law remains God's law, we obey the law for the sake of the worldly good it works in service to the neighbor (Lk 10:25-37). In this way we give the world its due in a way that the world does not. All this can be assured to the church only because our righteousness in heaven is well assured through the person and work of God's Son, who is our righteousness before God. Then we are free even to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us.

 

Martin Luther

"This passage (Gal 4:29) contains the deepest comfort. All those who have been born and live in Christ, and who boast of their birth and inheritance from God, will have Ishmael as their persecutor. We are learning this today in our own experience. We see that everything is filled with turmoil, persecution, sects, and offenses. Therefore, unless we strengthen our minds with this comfort from Paul and others like it, and unless we cling tenaciously to the article of justification, we will not be able to withstand the power and the wiles of Satan. For who would not be affected by the atrocious persecutions of our adversaries, or by the sects and endless scandals that the fanatical spirits are inciting today? It is especially saddening when we are forced to hear that before the Gospel came everything was tranquil and peaceful, but that since its discovery everything is in an uproar, and the whole world is in tumult and collapsing upon itself. When the man who has not the Spirit (1Co 2:14) hears this, he is immediately offended and comes to the conclusion that the disobedience of subjects toward their magistrates; seditions, wars, pestilence, famine; the overthrow of republics, principalities, and kingdoms; sectarianism, scandals, and endless similar evils have all arisen out of the doctrine of the gospel.

 

"We must strengthen and support ourselves against this great scandal with this sweet consolation that in the world the godly must bear the name and reputation of being seditious, schismatics, and troublemakers. This is why our opponents think that they have a most just cause and that they are offering service to God (Jn 16:2) when they hate, persecute, and murder us. It cannot be otherwise, therefore, than that Ishmael will persecute Isaac; but Isaac does not persecute Ishmael in return. Whoever does not wish to bear the persecution of Ishmael, should not confess that he is a Christian. But, I ask our opponents, who so magnify and exaggerate these evils today, what were the good things that followed the preaching of Christ and the apostles? The devastation of the Jewish kingdom, the dissolution of the Roman Empire, and the upheaval of the whole world! This was not the fault of the gospel, which Christ and the apostles preached for the salvation, not the destruction, of men." 

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.29
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have freed us by making us heirs of life in You. Help us to serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living. Amen.

 

For the LCMS, begging our Lord both for faithful confession and heartfelt love among the brothers united by Christ's blood

 

For Rhett Wilkins, who is gravely ill, that the Lord of the church would bring wisdom to doctors and those who minister to his needs

 

For Rafael Abreu, that the Lord of the church would send the holy angels to watch over him in the midst of illness
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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