There’s so much to learn from the opening chapters of Genesis. Though the story of Adam and Eve’s creation, temptation, and fall is simple enough for a child to recite, the truth it speaks is profound. In these first passages of Scripture, God tells us who we are (God’s image bearers), what our purpose is (to know and glorify God), and why we are the way we are now (because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden). Elder Rob Renner led the adult Sunday School class in considering these truths as we covered the 3rd chapter of the book Presbytopia.
At the morning worship service I preached from Luke 6:27-36, part of Jesus’ so-called Sermon on the Plain (which is Luke’s version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount). In this teaching our Lord instructs us on the character and consequence of the love that he commands us to show others.
Though the human race is made up of sinners, you’ll still find love in the world. But this love is limited to loving others who love you back, doing good to those who return the favor, and lending to those you know will pay you back. Jesus calls his disciples to a higher standard, an extraordinary love: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (vs. 27, 28). This is the character of the love with which we are to love others: self-denying, self-sacrificial, self-forgetting love.
One of the greatest examples I’ve heard of this sort of love in action is a story told by Ernest Gordon in his book To End All Wars. Gordon tells of his experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, how the grace of God transformed his heart and the heart of his fellow prisoners so profoundly that by the end of their captivity they willingly tended to a train-load of wounded Japanese soldiers returning from the front. What they did was nothing short of miraculous. What else can make a person show this kind of love to his enemy besides the grace of God?
Of course the greatest display of the character of the love to which Jesus calls us is the love that he himself manifested in laying down his life for sinners on the cross. In our sin and unbelief we were the enemies of Jesus, we returned evil for his good, we cursed his name, and we abused him. Yet Jesus did not deal with us according to our sin, but he loved us. He died in our place that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life. That is true love! And that is character of the love that Jesus commands each of us to show to others.
And the consequence of loving as Jesus loved is that we show ourselves to be true children of God, just as Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus promises that when we love our enemies, and do good, and lend, our “reward will be great,” and we will be “sons of the Most High” (v.35). As our Father in Heaven is kind to the ungrateful and evil, so we show ourselves true children of the Father when we, by his grace, love those who are ungrateful or return evil for good.
What a challenge! There’s nothing more difficult, more contrary to the natural tendencies of our hearts, than to love those who oppose us. But the more that Christ’s own love fills our hearts, the more we will be like him (and our common Father!) in loving others.
At the evening service we continued our study of the Heidelberg Catechism, looking at the 9th Commandment as explained for us in Lord’s Day 43.
Soli Deo Gloria!