What about love? Over and over, it was said that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” This is obviously essential to Christianity, and it flows out of that Love with which Christ first loved us. We should ask, then, how Christ has loved us, and seek to love others with that same love. There is not a single instance where Jesus overlooked or excused any sin. It is true that the traditions of Judaism considered it a sin to do anything on the Sabbath, and that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. But those who opposed Jesus had forgotten that the Sabbath was meant for the good of God’s people; it was never a way to neglect those in need or a day to refuse to help someone. Jesus restored the Sabbath to what it was supposed to be: a day for the good of His creation. He did this especially by His rest in the tomb on the Sabbath, and His opening of the eternal Sabbath rest for all people through His resurrection on the eighth day. But where does Jesus ever condone or excuse sin? He tells the woman caught in adultery to “go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). He doesn’t excuse sin; He dies for it! He doesn’t condone sin; He forgives it! One speaker summarized well the work of the Church in this world: “Welcome sinners and call sinners to repentance; we do both.” If the Church would paint that on her doorposts and bind it to her forehead, much confusion would be avoided, and her members would clearly see how to deal with sin and sinners (which is how Christ has dealt with us). If the Scriptures truly contain God’s Law and if God is truly Love, then it is impossible that the Law and Love should contradict each other. Yet, that is exactly what many speakers called for: to let “love” (understood as acceptance without a call to repentance) trump the Law. But that sort of false love always says “God loves you as you are, so it’s no problem if you stay the way you are.” God never says that to sinners. He says, “I love you in spite of who you are, and I intend to make you into a perfect image of My Son, which is what I intended for My creation.”
What kind of love is it to encourage someone to continue in rebellion against God’s Law? What kind of love is it to not call a sinner to repentance for all his or her sins? What kind of love is it to do what Jesus never did, and excuse sin rather than forgive it in His Name? That, in fact, is not love at all; it is callous disregard for the sinner and much closer to hatred. In this church, in these congregations, we will continue to love as Christ has loved us: by welcoming sinners and calling sinners to “repent and believe the Gospel.” We can, and we must, do both. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!
Pr. Timothy Winterstein