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Walther on Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

by pastorjuhl ~ September 1st, 2009

Many people, even the heathen, have shamed their enemy through generous kindness. But where is the man who can say: I love my enemy as I love my friend? All Christians have done that. They always conquer their hatred against their enemies, and lovingly embrace them. But where is the person who can say, that he never, never hated his enemy, insulter,and persecutor? If anyone must confess that he was angry with his enemy only once, he thus confesses that he has not perfectly fulfilled the command to love his neighbor; he condemns himself as a transgressor of the Law; he himself declares that he cannot justify himself before God.

The command to love our neighbor demands that we rejoice over the good fortune of our enemies as over our own, and mourn at his misfortune as though it had happened to us. Yes, the Law of loving our neighbor demands, that we are just as concerned and pray just as earnestly for the temporal and eternal welfare of our enemies as for our own. We must concern ourselves more with having our offenders receive forgiveness from God for their sins against us, than that they apologize to us. Christ says in another place: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33). “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Such an inner living heartfelt perfect love of one’s enemies only One had, and proved it; Jesus Christ the Son of God. He always repaid evil with good, misdeed with kindness, cursing with blessing, in short, hatred with love. He shed bitter tears at the misfortune of his persecutors, prayed for his murderers, and gave his life on the cross for the salvation of all his enemies. Who has perfectly imitated the Savior? No one; not a single person. Therefore, even the command to love our neighbor shows that no person can justify himself before God (Old Standard Gospels, p. 291-292).

True love does not ask what another person usually does. It thinks: Even if no one does it, I am compelled to. True love does not ask, whether a person can demand this or that of his love; it is not satisfied to have acted uprightly as though it would receive justice before a worldly court; it always thinks: What would you want the other to do to you, if you were in the same situation as your neighbor? True love loves one’s neighbor as it love itself. It does not think: Someone else has a greater obligation than I have; why should I be so concerned about it? No, it thinks: If another, who should do it, does not want to, I will do what I can. True love would rather suffer injury than let his neighbor suffer injury. It is ready to help even if it becomes a burden, even if it has no abundance; even of that which it needs itself it must share with the needy. Yes, it is ready to stake goods, health, honor, and even life itself for his neighbor, if that becomes necessary. Moses writes: “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” (Exodus 23:5). And in the New Testament we read: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Now where is the person who leads such a life in love? There is none. Only Christ has perfectly lived, suffered, and died in love, not for himself but for sinners. True Christians, in whom Jesus lives, make a beginning of such love, but never become perfect (OSG 292-293).

Tell me, can you find the person who never becomes tired of showing his love? Whose love to his neighbor is ready to burn brightly in an instant? Who never has days when he feels cold and slow in showing love? Who never tires easily of being generous, when he is almost daily importuned by one or more of the poor? Who does not become tired of being kind, when  he sees how often his kindness is misused? Who never becomes tired of showing works of mercy, when he experiences that his goodness is repaid with despicable unthankfulness? Who never becomes tired for forgiving and being reconciled, when a person always insults and injures him anew?

This also only One was able to do, Jesus Christ. Of him we read not only: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1b), but Christ was also just as unflagging in his love toward his enemies. Even the infamous traitor could not make Christ’s love become tired of his devilish hypocrisy and malice; even the kiss of Judas he took with friendly mien and called the rascal friend. Full of love he came into the sinful world to seek and to save what was lost. The world, to which he did only good, did not rest until it had nailed him to the cross. Yet loving and blessing and praying and dying for the whole sinful world, amid the curses and mockery of his enemies, he left the world.

Oh, let no one rely on his love toward his neighbor for his salvation. Let no one thereby recognize how much he lacks in that love which God demands of us. Let each one learn to know that his heart is empty and cold in respect to love. May he smite on his breast and feel sorry for it. Only one love it is which saves us and that is the love of God in Christ Jesus. Whoever despairs of his own love and comforts himself in God’s love begins to love a little. Some day he will come where he will remain in love, where all live in perfect eternal love. Amen (OSG 293-294).

2 Responses to Walther on Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

  1. Charles James

    Thanks again for unwrapping what the Christian life really is. i.e. experiencing and living in the knowledge that "only one love it is which saves us and that is the love of God in Christ Jesus……………" Are those of us who have found "the pearl of great price", the everyday ordinary Christian worker, mother, father etc who despairs of his own love and discovers God's love in Christ?

  2. Andrew, Esq.

    Is this a sermon from Walther?

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