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Romans

15:1-7

 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV)

I Won't Stop Loving You

Monday of Pentecost 9

27 July 2015

Who should the church welcome? Everyone. That is the self-evident answer. However, it is not so simple. Why should she welcome the outcast and receive her persecutors into her midst (Gal 1:23-24)? Jesus especially welcomed and loved the outcasts of society. Those whom He recognized as needing His service as the physician of souls, He called into His presence and offered that renewal of perfect fellowship which had been broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden. He ate together with those who had been degraded through the eating of what God had forbidden. By so doing He created a new and greater fruit by being lifted upon the tree of life. Now we, who were decayed by eating the fruit, become the treasured fruit of His recreation of Eden. The tree of life buds with luxurious abundance in the midst of the church. He brought healing to those who hated even the one who brought them the medicine of immortality.

 

The Lord Jesus not only loved and called the outcasts, but also those who hated Him. Their hatred was characteristic of their decayed condition. Because they hated Him they hated others and were hated by them in return. None of this deterred His compassionate outreach. He loved them all the more, so that He died even and especially for those who hated Him. He was determined to turn back their hatred by His unaccountable love. The physician of souls was willing to transfuse them with His life blood, even though that transfusion brought Him certain death, sucking the life out of Him at the cross. He would not hate those who hated Him but gave Himself over to their will, and in so doing loved them. This is God's way; to love those who hate Him. Jesus tells us that even pagans will love those who love them. Loving those who hate is another thing entirely. It reminds me of the bumper sticker that said, "Mean People Suck." This is a classic oxymoron. Only mean people say that others "suck." We respond to bad behavior with bad behavior, anger with anger, hatred for hatred. Jesus does not. He does exactly the opposite.  He loves those who are bad, angry, and seething with hatred; even and especially against Him.

 

This is the way it must be, because if it were not the church would cease to exist. She welcomes those who hate her, loves those persecute her, and prays for those who despise her, because the church's children have all experienced that same love. All of us have been called into the community of love, despite our hatred of Him. He has so unaccountably welcomed us that we cannot do otherwise than welcome those who persecute us and love those who hate us. Loving in return for hatred will certainly do one thing; it will increase the love in the world, make hatred harder to maintain, and will bring glory to God in Christ. Hate me if you like, but I won't stop loving you.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God' (Rm 15:7). Your Master loved those who hated Him, and called them to Him. The weaker they were, the greater the care He showed to them. He cried and said, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Mt 9:12). He considered tax collectors and sinners worthy of the same table with Him. And as great as was the dishonor with which the Jewish people treated Him, so great was the honor and concern He showed for them; even much greater. Emulate Him.

 

"This good work is not easy, but one without which even a martyr could not please God much, as Paul says. Do not say then, 'I am hated, and that is why I do not love.' For this is why you ought to love most. Besides, it is not in the nature of things for a man who loves to be soon hated, Even if a person is a brute, at least he loves those who love him. Jesus says the heathen and the tax collectors do this (Mt 5:46). However, if everyone loves those who love him, who is there that would not love those who love while they are suffering hatred? Display this conduct, and do not cease to use this word: 'Hate me as much as you wish, I will not leave off loving you,' and then you wilt humble his quarrelsomeness, and cast out all coldness."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 27
 
Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, You are the physician of those who are sick. Grant us the strength to confess ourselves among those needing Your healing care. Forgive us our hatred of You and others. Help us to keep saying to those who hate us, "I will never stop loving you," because You have said this to us. Amen.

 

For the Board of Directors of the LCMS Texas District, that they would be strengthened for the labor of supporting the gospel

 

For President Tim Scharr of the Southern Illinois District of the LCMS, that he would be strengthened in body and soul

 

For those who are suffering drought conditions, that God their heavenly Father would send the nourishing rains

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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