Called to Love – Devotion by Rev. William Magee
Called to Love
Matthew 5: 21-37.
Perhaps the words of our gospel text for today make us just a little fearful of the “world of God,” or that which God expects from us. Visions of judgment, hell fire, and what seems to be inescapable sin permeate the text and land right into our laps as Jesus speaks quite frankly about the legalism of sin, of what sin is, and how we are all caught up in this human condition. Such a text drives home those well known words that we as humans are “captive to sin and cannot free ourselves”.*
Yet within the reading, Jesus also talks about love. About what love is and what love is not.* In other words, he tells us what we should be doing in the world as Christians. The reading, in many ways, is intended to drive us back to the author of our faith, Jesus! These words from Matthew are extremely legalistic, which is the very thing from which we as Christians strive to escape. They tell us that we could never achieve this God desired forgiveness on our own (even though we so many times try). They tell us that our own efforts will always fall short; they tell us that we need help. These words create a situation for us that will drive us to seek forgiveness from God through Christ. We confess. We look to the cross of Christ and God forgives. And I’m speaking of a forgiveness that is virtually unimaginable for us as humans.
I don’t think that we can even come close to realizing the full sense of the loving forgiveness and grace that our God has for us and His creation, even in the midst of our sin. What we must understand is that the world is legalistic. We are legalistic; however, God is mercy and grace. And such grace will always have the final word. Sin drives us to confession and that confession results in forgiveness. Now that’s love!
So from there we respond, with the love of Jesus. Knowing full well that we are fully forgiven by our loving God, we go about the business of loving others. Such a love should look to tear down whatever barriers and walls that often times stand between the people of our world and endeavor to build up relationships. We are called to love our neighbors with open hearts and minds, throwing out the judgments and preconceived notions that worldly thinking that often influences us to put on people that are different from us. We are called to see ourselves as the people of God, workers in his kingdom, as we go about joyfully sharing the love of Jesus through our words and actions. We are called to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters and walk strong in faith knowing that even if we stumble, God will be there over and over again with his mercy and grace.
As we rise from the waters of our baptisms, we can now walk unafraid, knowing that sin and death have no power over us. We need not fear sin, as it is Jesus who has procured our forgiveness. We only need to walk in God’s love and let our light shine, as we endeavor to change the world.
Peace and good hockey,
*Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress, 2006, pg. 95
*Sundays and Seasons, Year A, 2011, pg. 96
Pastor Bill was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in the United States Navy for 11 years. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Rowan University and went on to earn his Masters of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Pastor Bill took the call for St. Matthias Lutheran in January of 2001.