The Second Sunday after Epiphany| January 20, 2019| Rev. Rolf Preus| Romans 12:9
Love is without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
Love is a four letter word. The sound of the word doesn’t offend our sensibilities like other four letters words do, but the word love is abused as few words are. It is used to describe sinful desires and acts. Sexual perversion, defiance of God’s holy Word, even murder – have been promoted in the name of love. When self-indulgence is preferred above love for the neighbor, the second table of God’s law is repealed. It says to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving yourself is the orthodoxy of our day.
Paul warns us of two false views of love. He identifies the first false view of love by writing, “Love is without hypocrisy.” Hypocritical love is not love. He identifies the second false view of love by writing, “Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Love cut off from God’s commandments is not love.
Let’s first look at hypocritical love. He writes, “Love is without hypocrisy.” He says what love is by saying what it’s not. Love isn’t twofaced. It isn’t an act. Actors act. People are manipulated by the acting of actors. They send money to support what they are convinced are good causes, only to be fleeced by unscrupulous con artists who know how to put on a good show. Preachers put on airs of piety as they preach false gospels that exploit the greed, fear, and insecurity of hurting people. Actors act. But that’s not love.
Hypocritical love is a mask for something else. The English word, hypocrite, comes from the Greek word for stage actor. It referred to the mask that actors would wear on stage. To be a hypocrite is to present yourself as someone you are not. It is to put on a show. It is a pretense to love. Call it pretend love. It’s just a word.
Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:5-6)
Love is honest and straightforward. It doesn’t hide behind anonymity, or package criticism in lies. It is open. It is honest. When the Apostle Paul says that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Corinthians 13:7) he’s not saying that love is naïve. He’s saying it is sincere. Love doesn’t shave off the truth here and there. It is without hypocrisy of any kind. It is honest. It doesn’t hide behind a mask, a façade, a pretense, a role, or anything else. It is clear and straightforward. As Paul writes, again in 1 Corinthians 13, Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Hypocritical love is not love. Love does not pretend to do. It does. The first false love exposed in our text is hypocritical love, a love that is all show and no go.
The other kind of false love is worse. It may not put on a show. It may be quite sincere. But it is sincerely wrong. This view of love defines love in opposition to God’s commandments. The Ten Commandments are God’s summary of the law he gave to Israel through Moses thirty five hundred years ago. The Ten Commandments are summarized in two commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37 & 39)
God is love. Who defines love for us? Is it we, ourselves, who are guilty of failing to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves? Or it is God, who demonstrated his love for us all by sending his only begotten Son into this world to set us free from our sins by offering up his life on the cross? True love is not seen in how much we love, but in how much God loves. As St. John writes,
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11)
God defines love for us by pointing us to his commandments. Listen to how Christ’s apostle, Paul, explains this in Romans 13:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
It is a lie to claim that something is love when it is opposed to God’s commandments. Furthermore, it is not enough to go along with God’s commandments because, after all, he is God and so gets to make the rules. Paul writes, “Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.” You cannot cling to the good unless you hate the evil. You cannot love unless you hate. To love God is to love his commandments. To love his commandments requires you to hate what his commandments forbid. Do you love God? Then you love his commandments. What does this mean? It means that is you hate adultery, murder, theft, false witness, and everything else forbidden by God.
Love and hate go together. If you love the Sixth Commandment that says, “You shall not commit adultery,” you love marriage. You love the marriage that God established: the lifelong union of one man and one woman. If you love marriage, you hate adultery. You hate homosexuality. You hate divorce. Love of what is good must include hatred of what is evil or it is a sham.
Love and hate go together. If you love God, you love the Fifth Commandment that says, “You shall not murder.” You love your neighbor, whoever he may be. You love those in danger of being killed. You love unborn babies. If you love unborn babies, you hate abortion. You recognize it as evil. Those who promote it, defend it, and claim it as a right are promoting, defending, and claiming that it is right to do wrong.
Love is grounded in truth. Hatred comes from the father of lies. To love our neighbor means we want our neighbor to know him who is the way, the truth, and the life. To wink at sin as if it is not sin is not to love. It is to hate. To call a sin a right does not make it right. God, not the passions of fallen, sinful humanity, decides what love requires.
Answer this question to understand what love is and what love is not. How many legs would a dog have if you called his tail a leg? The answer: Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. Just so, when two men desire each other sexually, want to marry each other, the government legalizes same sex marriage, and they go through a wedding ceremony, this means they are married. Right? No, that’s wrong. Serial sodomy is not marriage, even when the government says it is. God decides what marriage is. Homosexuality is still sexual perversion when the government says it’s not. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. Marriage is what it is. God, who made us male and female, says what it is.
Just so, when a woman hires an abortionist to kill her unborn child, and the government says she has this right, even claiming that the Constitution of the United States gives her the right to hire an abortionist to kill her baby, this does not make it right. God teaches us that love hates what is evil. Killing babies is evil. Sodomy is evil. To love our neighbor requires us to hate abortion and sodomy.
God loves marriage and children. He instituted marriage in the beginning. He knows how the human race has perverted his holy institution. God never approved of polygamy. God knows all about adultery, domestic abuse, husbands who neglect their wives, wives who refuse to submit to their husbands, children who defy their parents, parents who refuse to raise their own children, and every other evil associated with marriage. In knowing everything bad about marriage, God chose, not to abandon this estate, but to sanctify it. Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding celebration. It was his first miracle. He did it at a wedding. He thereby sanctified marriage.
God loves marriage. He loves the love between a man and a woman. He is the One who invented it when he made us male and female in the beginning. He loves children. Children are the greatest blessing of marriage. When God in the flesh sanctified marriage at the wedding of Cana by changing water into wine, he also gave us a glimpse of the wonderful mystery of his marriage to his holy church.
Consider the bride of Christ. She wasn’t much to look at. She was covered with the filth of her own sin. She was unfaithful, rude, unloving, and rebellious. He didn’t grab her and impose marriage on her against her will. Instead, he loved her despite her filth, bore in his own body her sin, suffered the punishment she had brought upon herself, and by his blood, shed on the cross, he washed away her sin. He cleansed her with his holy precious blood in the waters of baptism, washing away every stain and blemish, and he presented her before him as a glorious church, a holy bride, a beautiful bride upon whom his favor rests.
Would he so love his bride and ignore what we need for our marriages, leaving us all on our own? Would God give us children, love those children, and not give us the wherewithal to care for them? God forbid! God sanctified marriage by changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana. God sanctified childbirth by becoming a child in the Virgin’s womb. This is the God who calls to himself a lost humanity, and he deigns to speak through people like us.
So speak out, Christian! Speak out in support of marriage and children! If we love marriage and children, we will hate what attacks marriage and children. We will stand against sexual sins of thought, word, and deed. We will oppose the killing of the unborn, and support a culture of life. More than that, we will confess him who sanctified childbirth and marriage: our Lord Jesus who became a baby and as a man sanctified until the end of time the marriage of one man to one woman.
Love does not ignore sins against God’s commandments. Such organizations as the Presbyterian Church U. S. A., the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America all teach lies about love and God’s commandments. In the name of love, they support the right of homosexuals to abuse their bodies among themselves and the right of women to kill their unborn babies. They lie. This is not love. If a man has sexual desires for a man or a woman has sexual desires for a woman, this is not love. It is sin. If a woman who is expecting a child cannot cope with it, it is not love to enable her to have her unborn child killed. Homosexuality and baby-killing are never love. For churches to say this is love is to lie and deceive by God’s name. Christians should leave the fellowship of such false churches. Sin is not love. So says God. And so we must say. We must say it clearly and publicly and without apology.
Love confronts the sinner with the truth. Love points the sinner to God’s law of perfect love. Love calls the sinner to repent of his sin. Love shows the sinner where his sins are washed away and he is reconciled to God. On Calvary, all sexual sins, all sins against children and the unborn, indeed, all sins of all sinners were forgiven. Love is without hypocrisy. Love hates evil. Love directs sinners to him who is love incarnate. He receives sinners who are sorry for what they have done. He forgives them. He loves them. So do we. Amen.