Preached July 3, 2011
1 St. John 3:13–24
St. Luke 14:16–24
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Last Sunday, we talked about the love of God for mankind, specifically as to how that is the very character of the Godhead. The love of God for us calls forth from us a similar response, our response of love for God, which is our topic for this morning. Our love for God must be reflected in the whole temper of our lives, in all of our words and actions.
In our Epistle lesson, we are warned to expect trouble if we are faithful Christians, because our faith is contrary to the ways of the world, as the Epistle writer says, 1 John 3:13-14 13 Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. This is really no surprise; the ways of the world are not based on love, but much more on envy, hated, coercion, and manipulation. If we are truly living as Christians, loving one another, we will be hated by the world; we have the word of Jesus Christ for that.
There are some very strong words about those who do not love their brothers: 1 John 3:15-16 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Just as Christ laid down His life for us, so we are called to lay down our lives for each other. This is a hard saying, and yet it is realized every day by our servicemen in the military, police, and fire services. Most of us in civilian life are not faced with this literally urgent call, although sometimes it does happen such as if we see a person drowning, come first onto the scene of an automobile accident, or similar event where we must take action to save a life, even at personal risk.
The next verse is one that cause us considerable difficulties in modern day America, 1 John 3:17 But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? On the one hand, there is the simple, straight forward reading of this verse that should give us no difficulties at all. In this reading, it says that for those of us who have plenty, if we fail to give to those in need, how can we think that we have the love of God in us? We deceive ourselves. There is nothing complicated about that, and we should take that directly to heart. There are, however, two problems with this understanding that I must also point out.
First, this sort of reasoning is often used as the basis for encouraging us to support the invading army of illegal immigrants who are coming into our country. It is argued that they are poor and in need and that we, who have so much, are obligated to give to them, to share our wealth with them. This completely overlooks the fact that they come as robbers, crossing our border illegally, often performing many illegal actions while in our country such as robberies, drunken driving, rapes, etc. Our hospitals, schools, jails, and other social services are greatly burdened by these folks who often pay no taxes, send most of their earnings out of the country, and have no loyalty to this country. The Biblical injunctions to show hospitality to the sojourner applied only to those who were present legally and who integrated themselves into the Jewish community. They did not apply to hostile enemies who came to settle in their midst.
The second problem is somewhat more subtle. It might be phrased as a question, “In helping this person, am I really helping him?” Let us consider one specific example, that of Ethiopia. In 1900, the population of Ethiopia was estimated to be 11 million people. During the first half of the twentieth century, Ethiopia came under considerable influence from Italy and other European states, bringing modern technology and medical knowledge that increased the infant survival rates and overall life expectancy for the country. This resulted in a growth in population, such that by 1984, the population was 42 million, almost an increase of a factor of four in approximately 80 years. By 2010, the population is estimated at 80 million, doubling in approximately 25 years. Over this time period, the land area has actually decreased as several small states have broken away, thus making the population growth of Ethiopia actually more rapid than what these numbers imply. Has advanced technology and medicine actually helped these people? It has increased their numbers, keeping them on the edge of famine most of the time. The physical resources of the land are such that these people, the black Ethiopians, are unable to support their greater numbers on this land. Thus, I suggest to you that we have not done them any favor by increasing their numbers because we have only aggravated their problems. A plea to give money or other support in aid for the starving Ethiopians is therefore not really doing them any good at all. I don’t know what the answer is; I don’t know what the right way to help them is. But I do know that if we want to help, we don’t start by making the problem worse.
This same problem, namely expanding populations that are not, and cannot be, self–sufficient, has happened elsewhere also. It happened in South Africa where the black population was enabled to multiply under white rule, to the point that the number of blacks now vastly exceeds the number of whites. Even though the blacks are now in control of South Africa, they have no idea how to run the country successfully, and it is rapidly degenerating. The Palestinians are another similar example. What was only a small number of displaced people in 1948, has been nurtured and fed for over sixty years by the rest of the world and has grown in number to be quite vast now, thus expanding the problem considerably.
We must remember that, in the final analysis, to love our neighbor means to bring his soul closer to God. This points us in the direction of making much more urgent efforts to bring all of these people to God; this is where our efforts are required. The spread of the Gospel is truly a matter of urgency for each of us to be working on. One of the places where we must begin is being adamant in rejecting the popular “all religions are equal” idea that is so popular even as it is patently false. The faith of Jesus Christ is the only true religion, and we must be absolutely unyielding on this with everyone we encounter.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we have another parable describing the love of God for man, and the dire consequences of failing to respond to that love. The love of God is pictured as a great supper, spread wide for He has invited many to his banquet. It is a wonderful meal with graces for all the needs of man, just as Christ’s Church provides everything necessary for our spiritual life and progress in holiness. It is a great feast of joy in the present time, while also providing hope for the future. It gives present happiness and the promise of future glory in the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. The Lord sends out His invitations even today through His ministers.
As with so many things in life, if admission is free or easily gained, it is lightly regarded. So it is with the Lord’s great feast. One by one, the invited guests send their excuses, many of them, but there is really only one reason common to them all. They are all engaged in the affairs of the world. They have other business to attend to, they are too satisfied with the world, too busy with the cares of the world, or too engaged with the delights of the world to be concerned with anything higher. There is room for them at God’s feast, but there is no room for God in their hearts. This is a terrible error. The feast of God will give rest to the man of wealth; it will ease the anxiety for the man of business, and it will make the happiest home even happier, if they would but see and accept the invitation of God.
The Master of the house, the Lord, simply ignores all the excuses that are received from those that have been invited. He is angry because He sees the ungodly and worldly hearts that have sent these excuses. His anger is aroused, but His love for man is still active as well, so He sends His servants to find the outcasts of the city, the beggars and those already suffering from hunger. These already know their need for food and will not hesitate to come.
There is a final, dire word of warning from the Host, Luke 14:24 For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper. Those who do not accept the love of God, who do not find time or place for God in their hearts, will not enjoy the love of God in this life, and will be cut off from the love of God in the next life. What could be more grim?
Those who have accepted the invitation, and have taken their seats at God’s board, must have a care that they really partake of the supper. The supper is great, but it is only the crumbs of it that we have yet tasted. By far the best is yet to come.
Let us seek to love both God and our neighbor with a true love, concerned with the welfare of the soul much more than that of the body. While we must not deny the physical needs of our neighbor, we must recognize that his spiritual needs are much more important. Let us put them first.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.