This was a sermon I wrote quite a while ago. May as well start my blog with an old entry from a previous blog.
This sermon deals with a simple concept, but one that can all too often be forgotten in a focus on what specific actions are “right”, “Christian”, or “just.”
The focus of any Christian’s life should be that which was described in the Gospel of Mark, verses 12:28-34
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
Though it is plainly obvious that the God a Christian should follow is the Christian God, some may wonder who their neighbor is - put simply, your neighbor is anyone that is not you. The parable of the Sheep and the Goats in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 34-40 makes this plainly clear, in that your neighbor is everyone, even the least. And whatever love, or lack of love, we show to the least of our neighbors, we show to Christ.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
And as the opening verses of chapter 13 of First Corinthians tells us (Though I speak
with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.), a lack of this love makes a Christian’s actions useless - only by doing all our actions in love, can we truly fulfill our calling.
Since love is so vital to a Christian’s walk, we would do well to understand its true nature as best as we are able, by studying how it is described in the latter parts of First Corinthians.
Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
These are the qualities we should seek to show, for these are the qualities of God. As 1st
John 4:16 tells us “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Christians are to emulate Christ in their actions, exhibiting the love of Christ, namely the patience of Christ, the kindness of Christ, the humility of Christ, the justness of Christ, the selflessness of Christ, the non-aggressive nature of Christ, the goodwill of Christ, and the holiness of Christ.
The next verses (Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.) demonstrate the constant nature of perfect love - Christ’s love - and demonstrate that perfect love, and God, will never fall away - and when perfect love in the form of God returns, imperfect love will be cast aside.
The final verses of 1st Corinthians 13 refer more to ourselves, and our own spiritual journey.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
This passage makes little sense, unless one sees it in a spiritual sense. Just as we were immature when we were children, so too is our spiritual nature when we are spiritual children, “infant Christians”, if you will. As we grow in our walk with Christ, we put aside our immaturity and grow more and more close to the true nature of Christ, and his love. However - we cannot fully reach Christ, not now. Now we see simply a dark reflection of true love, and can only exhibit a dark reflection of true love, Christ’s love, but when we see Christ face to face, we will see true love face to face, and we will no longer have partial knowledge, but we will know true love as well as Christ knows us. But until that day, we must focus on improving our knowledge of faith, hope and love, but the one we must focus on the most is the greatest - that of love.
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