Saturday, February 18, 2017

Epiphany 7

Epiphany 7 notes
February 19, 2017
Matthew 5:38–48
 No limits to love

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Did you hear Jesus’ words? “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Vs.48) This word, “perfect” [τέλειος,’] often means “totality,” or “full-grown.” The disciples of Jesus should be “all grown up… Matured. And now ready to reach a full and perfect end.” Just as a fruit tree. When it is matured. Produces a bumper crop.  

Christ’s followers are to be “total” in their love. Including their enemies. Such perfection is also functional. A disciple is “perfect.” To the extent that he reproduces in his life the forgiving, sacrificial love of God, which has made him a son. The pattern and power of this lived sonship is Jesus Himself. The Gospel makes people the children of God and enables them so to live lives, which are different.

Jesus’ message does not appeal to those in power. Especially, those with the ability to strike with no fear of retaliation. Jesus’ audience was fully aware of this. They knew the heavy taxation of Rome. They experienced the evils of political oppression. Yet, Jesus does not rally them to overthrow the government. God’s kingdom is bigger than Roman rule. God’s power is greater than Roman oppression. Yet God’s justice will prevail. Jesus will indeed prove His kingship in this Gospel. But only, with a crown of thorns. And a Roman cross.

Indeed, turning the other cheek and returning hatred with love is no way to get ahead in this world.  The rules of this kingdom are well known. - It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Where only the strong survive. But that’s just the point. Jesus isn’t trying to modify the rules of the world. He’s not, inviting you to figure out how to make the most of this world. Or, how to have your best life now. 

And He’s not even inviting you to find a safe port amid the storms of this world. Rather, He’s starting a revolution. By calling the rules of this world into question. And, at the very same time, redeeming this world that He loves. He redeems a world. That will, in due time, put Him to death.

No limits in love

1. Jesus won’t let us limit our love.

A. We want to limit it. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
1. By nature, we have an inclination for vengeance.  Jesus reminds us, “If you love your lovers...certainly the tax collectors do this! Correct? Yet what reward do you have?” This is simple justice. Jesus continues, “And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” 

2. God restrains and regulates this impulse through civil courts. “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (v. 40) Remember, Christ was stripped of tunic and cloak...they cast lots for it. (Matthew 27:35 John 19:23-24)  “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Vs. 41) “If anyone wants to take you to the Judge,” says, Jesus, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” – V. 42) 

3. Everyone has a vocation. Be generous to the one given to you. It is ordered. CS Lewis reminds us, this is where we are to be inappropriate. “Give until it pinches. Be charitable to the enemy who is your neighbor.”  “We are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (such as tipping, and showing hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.” 1 

B. Jesus’ words remove every limitation form love.
1. His admonition, “Love your enemies” removes every limit. They are to love their enemies.

2. Rather than vengeance, we are to seek their highest good. “Pray for those who persecute you.” So that they may be “children of your Father who is in heaven” (5:45). This God allows the sun to shine on the evil and the good. And He sends a life-giving rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (5:46). God, who has power over life and death, provides life-sustaining conditions even for those who are diametrically opposed to God’s goodness. 

3. Anyone can love the lovely. (5:46-47). Jesus demands love for those who are incapable of showing love in return. “’An eye for an eye’ makes all people blind.2 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 3

2. This is because God’s love, which made us His children, knows no limit.

A. God’s love knows no limit.
1. Strength eventually fails. Power corrupts. And survival of the fittest leaves so many bodies on the ground. Love alone transforms. Redeems. And creates new life.

2. We see it in the sending of His Son. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. “ (Romans 5:8) This is why Christ entered your world. He came to bear your sin. To die your death. And raise you up a new person. He then gives you His Spirit. To be witnesses of His mercy and grace. 

B. This love has made you God’s child.
1. He has adopted you.  In Baptism. Christ made you a member of His family.

2. He wants us to be “perfect” children by demonstrating His love in your life. Sanctification is the art of getting used to Justification.  It is suffering God's act. The law is fulfilled in Baptism. It's the new man daily rising.

3. Recall the explanation to the 2nd Article, I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. 4  Otherwise, every good work simply becomes self-serving. It's the difference between "you shall" (Moses and the Law) and "you are." (Jesus and the Gospel)

3. Therefore, as our heavenly Father’s “perfect” children we show love without limit. 

A. We bear insults and personal abuse without resentment or retaliation. Thus, Jesus reminds us, “turn to him the other cheek also.” Those who bear the name of Christ love their enemies and pray for their persecutors so that they may be “children of your Father who is in heaven” (5:45).

B. We do not insist on our rights. Instead, Jesus simply says, “Let him have you cloak as well.”

C. We put ourselves out for the other person. “Go with him two miles.”

D. We are willing to be put upon. “Do not refuse him,” encourages the Savior. 

The kingdom of heaven does not operate like the kingdoms of this world. How will we know when we see God’s kingdom? When anger results in reconciliation rather than retaliation. God must be at work. When enemies are overcome by love. Rather than violence. Then God’s reign is present. And His kingdom is present among us. 

Words – 1,320
Passive Sentences –3%
Reading level – 4.5

[1]  –Mere Christianity  Social Morality Part 3
[2] -Gandhi
[3] -Martin Luther King Jr.
[4] Explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, St, Louis

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