Christendom is Built and Preserved by Love

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“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8).  Advent is a season of repentance, and so we should examine ourselves to see whether we truly love our neighbors, brothers, and sisters.  One of Jesus’ last requests was for unity among Christians (John 17:23), but unfortunately that unity is often hard to find.  We do not have that unity because we do not love.  Love “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  (Colossians 3:14).

In the Church, which is the Body of Christ, we must love each other earnestly because it

“is inevitable that one member occasionally jostles the other, just as a foot or a toe of our body bumps the others, or as a person injures himself.  Such bumps and trials do not fail to come, especially because we are sojourning here in the realm of the devil, who tempts us uninterruptedly, and also because the flesh is still weak and full of flaws.  This explains why even dear and faithful friends fall out or become irritable with one another.  At times the devil injects poison and suspicion into a heart because of a single word or glance and thereby stirs up mutual animosity.  He is a master in this art and devotes himself to it most diligently.  He employs his craftiness before one is really aware of it.  As we read in Acts 15, this is what he did in the case of St. Paul and Barnabas, who had a sharp dissension and parted company.  Or take the two men Jerome and Rufinus, who had been the best of friends and like brothers.  They quarreled over a preface and were unable to re-establish their former friendship.  The same thing would have happened between St. Augustine and Jerome if Augustine had not been so shrewd.  Trifles can lead to such quarreling and enmity that great harm results to many.  The blood soon begins to boil; then the devil shoots his venomous darts into the heart by means of evil tongues, and finally no one says or thinks anything good about the other person.  The devil keeps on fanning the flames and is eager to set people against one another, to spread misery, and to incite them to murder…

“Therefore it behooves us Christians to be on our guard against the devil’s craft and cunning, to exercise prudence, and to beware of letting such poison develop in our hearts.  We must repel any suspicion and antipathy that may be stirred up in us and remind ourselves not to let love depart and die out for this reason but to hold to it with a strong hand.  And if aversion and discord have arisen anywhere, we must restore and improve the love and friendship.

“It does not require such great skill to begin to love; but, as Christ says here, remaining in love takes real skill and virtue.  In matrimony many people are initially filled with such ardent affection and passion that they would fairly eat each other; later they become bitter foes.  The same thing happens among Christian brethren.  A trivial cause may dispel love and separate those who should really be bound with the firmest ties; it turns them into the worst and bitterest enemies.  That is what happened in Christendom after the days of the apostles, when the devil raised up his schismatic spirits and heretics, so that bishops and pastors became inflamed with hatred against one another and then also divided the people into many kinds of sects and schisms from which Christendom suffered terrible harm.  That is the devil’s joy and delight.  He strives for nothing else than to destroy love among Christians and to create utter hatred and envy.  For he knows very well that Christendom is built and preserved by love.  In Colossians 3:14 Paul speaks of love as “binding everything together in perfect harmony.”  And in 1 Corinthians 13:13 he calls love the greatest virtue, which accomplishes and achieves most in the Christian realm.  For in the absence of love doctrine cannot remain pure; nor can hearts be held together in unity.”

Luther’s Works, vol. 24:
“Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16”
(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 15:9).
Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

What do we have if we have not love?  Therefore, we must show deep and intentional love for one another.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

“Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

— 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; NIV1984.

If we have not love, we should ask the Lord who is kind and generous.  He said: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7).  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”  (John 15:9).

Blessed Advent.

HT:  Brothers of John the Steadfast.

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