The month of February is known as the month of the Presidents (Washington and Lincoln) as well as the month of “love” (Valentine’s Day). The Holy Scriptures have little to say about presidents but do speak at great length about love. The context in which we pastor, administrate, or teach has given love a very different meaning than does the Word of God. Today, love is all about emotions and doing what makes the other person “happy”. In fact, happiness has become the new standard for the measurement of love. This takes the essence of love out of the Word and puts it in the desires of mankind. What happens when another person wants you to do something that is sinful in order to make them “happy”? Is that love? Can it be love?
It isn’t in the understanding of Holy Scriptures. Sin and love are not companions. One is not an accurate expression of the other. How many of you have had to exercise discipline in the church or classroom and were reprimanded for doing so because it is said that discipline doesn’t reflect love? How many times have you been told that “love is blind” and that love would not judge? That may be a portion of a hit song by the Beatles but it is not reflective of Holy Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions.
I Peter 1:22-23 says: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers. Love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born anew, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” Also I Peter 4:8 says: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Peter is telling us that love follows faith. Love is an expression and action that flows from one who is repentant and forgiven by the Blood of Christ. The sequence that love follows faith presupposes a broken heart over sin that has been restored by the Grace of God in Christ Jesus. Love does not ignore sin; it does not excuse it in others. It moves us to care enough that we point out the sin (with gentleness and respect) in our lives and in the lives of others that we may have the joy of receiving and bestowing Holy Absolution. It is the Blood of the Lamb, His uncompromising love for us that covers all our sin.
In the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (BOC Tappert 186:37), the Lutheran Fathers said: “Nor is love present before faith has affected the reconciliation…This faith gradually grows and throughout life it struggles with sin to conquer sin and death. But love follows faith, as we have said above.” And again (BOC Tappert 140:239), “Our love does not free us from shame when God judges and accuses us, but faith in Christ frees us in the midst of these fears and because we know that for Christ’s sake we are forgiven.” Love is who and what God is for us in Christ Jesus. Faith receives divine love and holds onto the blessings earned by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Love did not ask what makes us happy; it was not an emotion of ecstasy. It is who God is and it is what God does for us driven by a perfect and sinless will. Love is most beautifully pictured by the battered and beaten body of Jesus on the cross while paying His Father for our iniquity. Jesus arms were spread out wide on the cross so that He could gather the transgressions of all humanity on Himself making restitution on our behalf. Love cannot be expressed or explained any clearer than what Mt. Calvary shows us.
Let not the modern day definition of love distract you from your calling as a servant of Christ. Love one another in the manner given you by the Savior Himself. Listen to the Holy Scriptures, learn what they have to say from the Lutheran Confessions concerning the action of love in the Church. Love was not afraid to step on the head of Satan and crush him. It is not afraid to recognize sin, our own as well, and with a gentle spirit bring our brothers and sisters to the joy of God’s forgiveness.
God be with you all in His love,