Sunday, June 18, 2017

Devotion 6.18.17

I have, and you have in your lifetime,  met people who believe they have no sin.  Oh? you ask.  Yes, and they say things like this:  "Well, I may not be perfect, but at least I've never...."  That is called meeting a level you believe to be the letter of the law but failing to understand the spirit of the law.  It is always easy to look at the poor slob next door and say, "Thank God I'm not like that," and not realize you are acting out the parable from Christ about the Pharisee thanking God for being himself and not like "other men." (Luke 18)  Christ states emphatically that the more worthy prayer was the tax collector's prayer, unable to even look to heaven, asking, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." (v 13)  Christ states, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other man, went home justified before God." (v 14)

Yet we go on in our lives full of piety and thankful that we are who we are and not like those "other men."  That's a sad statement from the very confession we use from 1 John, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."  Paul notes in Romans 5, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned - for before the law was given, sin was in the world.  But sin is not taken into account when there is no law."  The law gives us measure of our sins, but sin existed before the law.  We know we all sin, so to say otherwise is deceiving ourselves and probably denying Christ as the light in this world who frees us from sin, Satan and death.

So, when we read the Fifth Commandment, "You shall not murder," we dust our hands and say, "Well, at least I've never done that."  "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement," (Matthew 5:21) is Christ's response to the subject of the Fifth Commandment.  In essence, the violation of a commandment is what is on our heart, not in our actions.  Have I physically killed someone?  No.  Have I violated this commandment?  Absolutely. Is one better than the other or worse?  No, not in God's eyes.

Luther asks what God requires of us in this commandment, and surprisingly, it isn't that He expects us not to kill, rather, "We should help and support our neighbor in every bodily need, and we should be merciful, kind, and forgiving toward our neighbor.  Likewise, we should avoid tempting our neighbor in acts of self-destruction (excess in drinking, use of drugs, etc.)."  Interesting, Luther doesn't mention not taking life (he does in the definition of murder in the various forms of the taking of life), but rather God expects us to "love our neighbor." 

We pray that we are honest with our own hearts and examine our own lives honestly.  We pray that we take those sins of the heart, capable of violating the commandment in the same way a heinous earthly crime might, to our Lord Jesus Christ, seeking His forgiveness and grace.

Hope Men's Ministry

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