In our Lutheran worship service each week, we confess our sins and the pastor announces that we are forgiven. Notice the word in bold, announces? This means we are not forgiven at that moment, we are not forgiven because of our confession, we are already forgiven. This segment in the service is to remind us that the work of atonement has already been done. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we have been forgiven once and for all–for every sin–those we committed last week, last year and even the ones we will commit next year. As Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished.” John 19:30
It took me a long time to get this. It makes more sense to think that we have to somehow make up for our sins, even if that only means acknowledging them and feeling remorseful. The author of Hebrews tells a different story in Chapter 10:
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool , because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
‘This is the covenant I will make with them, after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’
Then he adds:
‘Their sins and lawless acts, I will remember no more.’
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” Hebrews 10:11-18
It’s hard to grasp, but think about it. No further sacrifice is necessary: not by you or anyone else. We’ve been handed a get out of jail free card that never expires. What grace and freedom we have in the faith! Any sacrifices we make, are not sacrifices for sin, but thank offerings, in gratitude for the forgiveness Jesus has given us. The old system has been replaced. We live under grace, not law.
How does this make you feel? Please send us your thoughts and comments.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Okay folks, let’s be serious, did you actually think that I would not address the most famous love quote in the Bible before the end of the month. This is a quote said at weddings a lot, but this quote of love is not just for a husband and wife but how we are to be with everyone. Jesus loved us no matter how sinful we are, with patience and tolerance; however, we do not afford the same courtesy to others. We set limits and conditions on our love, hold grudges over real and imagined slights, and just all around generally behave in a loveless manner to our fellow humans. Now before you get yourself all worked up, I DO THE SAME THING. That’s right, I hold myself just as accountable as any other. I have been trying to be better, and I have been being more loving towards those that I may not agree with or upset me; but sometimes I falter. When I do, I brush myself off, get back on the path and continue. This is not a condemnation of our attitude, but rather a chance for you to look deep into yourself and ask the questions I pose –
Have you shown love to the driver that cut you off?
Have you shown love to the family member that said something hurtful?
Have you shown love to the cashier that took too long to ring you up?
Have you loved all as Jesus did?
Please comment and let me know, I enjoy hearing from you.
Love has been on my mind lately. No, not because of Valentine’s Day or my wedding anniversary, it’s just been coming up again and again in the weekly epistle readings. That really isn’t surprising since love is at the heart of the Christian life. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and Jesus Himself teaches that the greatest commandments are “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind …And … love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Church tradition says that when the apostle John was very old he would be carried into church where his entire sermon consisted of the statement: “Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4:7) Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit poured out into us (Galations 5:22) and the identifying mark of all Christians (John 3:35). The New Testament commands us to love more than fifty times!
So why do we find it hard to love certain people? I think the answer lies in the way we define love. For most of us, love means certain feelings: tenderness, affection and attachment which we expect (or at least hope) to have reciprocated. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people, even in our own churches and families, for whom we cannot muster up those feelings. We struggle to “love” people who have qualities that annoy us, who have hurt us or treated us badly, who disagree with us. How can we love people we don’t even like? How can we love people who don’t like us?
A careful reading has convinced me that Biblical love is not about feelings, but actions. We can’t control our emotions, but we can control what we do in response to them. We are to love others in the way we behave toward them. The apostle John, in his first epistle tells us to love “not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” The love verses in the Bible are filled with action words: “serve one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2); “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); “spur one another on to love” (Hebrews 10:24); “pursue love” (1 Timothy 2:22) and if fact “do everything in love” ( 1 Corinthians 16: 14). In some verses, the instructions are even more specific: “… outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10); “if you enemy is hungry, feed him (Romans 12:20); bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14); “ …pray for those who abuse you(Luke 6:28).
Next time (and it will be soon) I am confronted with a person I find difficult to love, I plan to ask the Holy Spirit to help me behave in accordance with the love qualities described in Colossians 3:12-17: “ …compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.” The apostle Paul calls this “walking by the spirit” (Galatians 5:16) Loving actions lead to freedom and peace; and as Paul adds, “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23).
This article was previously published in The Ambassador Facebook Page, an AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches) magazine