THE LAW OF LOVE 1-20-19
THE LAW OF LOVE
January 20, 2019
Last Sunday my message was about looking to Jesus for our salvation, and then keeping our eyes on Him, allowing Him to guide and direct our lives. This naturally includes allowing the Bible to be the primary source to which we look for direction and guidance, as it is the Word of God - both Jesus’ spoken words, as well as those written by prophets and apostles under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I also illustrated to the children how we need the Holy Spirit to correctly interpret God’s Word, and without Him we are blind to its truth. Many people might say they believe in God but then say they don’t put much confidence in the Bible, as it was written by men, and translated by men many times over many centuries; or that it surely must be just a collection of stories, even myths, and no more reliable that any other piece of literature. However, this is to blatantly suggest that God is incapable of revealing His truth to us and of keeping His Word pure – thus implying that God is not the omnipotent ruler of the universe that He is.
Admittedly, it can be confusing at times, especially when it might appear that the Old and New Testament are in conflict with one another. Law versus Grace, fighting against enemies versus loving our enemies, and adhering to strict rules concerning every aspect of life versus acceptance of those who do not observe them in the same way, if at all. How do we reconcile this?
Before Christ’s death and resurrection, the law required animal sacrifices to be made to temporarily cover the sins of God’s people. But as we read in Hebrews chapter 10, “Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins.” But Jesus came to offer “himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time”. “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time”. Jesus came to fulfill the law for us, as He himself said in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The purpose of the lengthy rules and regulations of the Old Testament Law were to show us our sin and need for a Savior, who is Christ Jesus. No one then, or now, is capable of keeping them all perfectly, except Jesus, which is why only his perfect sacrifice could cleanse us of sin forever. The only law we are required to follow is the Law of Love, for as you heard in our third Scripture reading (Romans 13:1,8-10) “If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
So then why do so many Christians of different denominations, and even those within our own denomination, argue and disrupt unity in the Body of Christ over interpretation of Scripture? And why, if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scripture for us, do we come to different conclusions regarding its interpretation?
The apostle Paul ran into this already back in his day. In his epistle to the Romans, chapter 14, he wrote,”Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose - to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”
In our first Scripture reading (Mark 2:23-28), you heard just one out of several times the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, and yet Jesus kept the law perfectly. As Lord of the Sabbath, He correctly pointed out how the law was made for our benefit, and we were not made for the law. We were made to love God, love one another, and to be loved by God and one another. And yet there is today an entire denomination that requires its members to adhere to worship on Saturday, the original Sabbath. According to Romans 14, if they feel it is wrong to worship on Sunday instead of Saturday, then for them it IS wrong. So we are not to mock or condemn them or do anything which would cause them to stumble. But rather Paul says we are to “aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up”.
And what of the conflict within our own denomination, that will hopefully be settled at General Conference next month? First, we must keep in mind it is not the first time such an issue has arisen and caused disharmony and fissures within the denomination. It was not so long ago that the issue of slavery was the heated topic of the moment. And then the allowing of women in the pulpit and other leadership roles within the church. It would appear to me that many who are firmly entrenched on one side or the other of this current split in how the church should interpret the Biblical guidelines on homosexuality, and if there should be any restrictions made concerning it within official church policy, are more concerned with affirming their own personal views than they are with adhering to the law of love or with Paul’s clear message to the Romans. If in your heart you feel it is wrong, then for you it IS wrong. But if in your heart you believe it is not contrary to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit does not convict your heart concerning it, then for you it is not sin. But neither side should point a finger at the other, or do anything to cause them to stumble, and above all we should aim for harmony in the church and build each other up.
And remember the warning in our second Scripture reading (James 2:1,8-13), “Whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.” And what is the law that sets us free? The law of love. Love one another. Love those you agree with and love even more those with whom you disagree. And remember, the world is watching. If they don’t see love among God’s people, how will they ever believe in the God of love? We are Christ’s representatives on this earth. Let’s act like it. Amen.