+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +
Text: John 13:31-35
Theme: “As I have loved you.”
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Central to understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ is understanding the newness that He effects. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new…for the old order of things has passed away.’”1 And, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”2 This newness assumes a change from the previous condition. In Christ, something radically different has taken place. The results of this change are not seen in Christ Himself, for He is the unchanging, eternal God. It is creation that is made anew. Yet the power of this change is in Christ Himself as the one who lived, died and rose again on behalf of all who needed to be made anew.
The theme of the overthrow of the old powers and the restoration of past decay is an important aspect of how salvation is described. The new covenant brings to completion the old. Satan, whom the Bible calls the “ancient serpent” has been dethroned and will ultimately be rendered powerless. The New Testament believers constitute the new Israel. The old system of making sacrifice has been replaced by receiving the sacrifice of the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”3 Christ ushered in the new and final era which will endure for eternity.
Jesus refers to the sanctifying aspect of this newness in our gospel today. He said to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another.”4 In what way can this be a new command? Certainly Jesus was not the first to advocate that people love one another. Moses was given the covenant of love on Mount Sinai many centuries before. The prophets preached extensively on the topic. The directive to love was nothing new to humanity. But the power to do so was. Unconditional love was made concrete in the Father’s gift of His Son to the world. That gift is the definitive expression of love. Only as believers can people love as Christ loved.
Yet the newness of the love of Christ does not mean a denial of the past. Sin still wreaks havoc in the world and in our personal lives. We cannot wish it away by simply claiming we live in new and enlightened times. The Biblical record contains past testimony for our current life and it cannot be dismissed. It is important that we learn from history lest we be doomed to repeat it. The passing of time, the desensitizing of our watchfulness, the searing of our consciences, the rejection of Christian teaching as outmoded and obsolete, endanger our ability to live and proclaim the radical newness of Christ’s love.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”5 We are called to give witness to our faith not by only loving those who love us, as even unbelievers do; but by loving even the unlovable, by loving those from whom we expect nothing in return. We should not be deceived into thinking we can compartmentalize our love. Nor can our love exist only in theory.
The Bible says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”6 Our claims, as sinners, do not necessarily correspond with reality. Love for God and hatred for people cannot coexist. We show our love for God in our deeds towards others. But if any of our thoughts, words and deeds are to be expressions of love, they must agree with the truth of God’s Word. Here is where the prevailing ideologies of relativism and pluralism lead even many well-many Christians astray. False philosophies subordinate truth to love in an impossible manner. There can never be a contradiction between truth and love. Proclaiming the truth, living the truth is ALWAYS an expression of love. That doesn’t mean doing it will be easy. The easy way is to tolerate or ignore sin and falsehood and call this tolerance or apathy love.
One example may suffice. The thinking is increasingly common that if parents discipline their children they are being too legalistic and not showing love. Parents, etch this in your mind and let it bolster your resolve: godly discipline is love. Take to heart these words of Scripture and put them into practice, “The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son…for what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons...no discipline seems pleasing at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”7
Dear friends, the tangible love Christ showed us in the past on the cross is the love that will sustain us for the future. Christians are people defined by events that came to completion in the past and give hope for the future. These events make us new. Jesus Christ died in the past, but He lives, now in the present and the eternal future. And He unites us to Himself through His dying and rising and living. Because we know where Christ has been, we know where we are going. And when we understand where we are going, we can have the confidence and freedom to live now.
For Christians, this life can only involve a continual crucifixion, resurrection and sanctification. True repentance daily plunges us into the baptismal water where our Old Adam is drowned. [Caleb is baptized only once but he will live in the power and promise of his baptism everyday]. Daily we are vivified by the promise of forgiveness. The Scripture says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”8
The primacy of imitating Christ’s love is shown in those powerful words of 1 Corinthians 13 which should be etched on all our hearts and minds. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If a give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”9
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”10
+ In nomine Jesu +
Fifth Sunday of Easter
28 April 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Revelation 21:5
2 2 Corinthians 5:17
3 John 1:29
4 John 13:34
5 John 13:34-35
6 1 John 2:9
7 Hebrews 12:6-8, 11
8 Ephesians 2:1, 4-5
9 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13
10 1 John 4:10