“We cannot help but love”

There are many reasons to ignore, despise, or even hate our neighbour. “But be steadfast in love, don’t give up,” the Chief Apostle says. “We believe in the final victory of love. That is our conviction.”

In the first century, the Christians in Asia Minor were persecuted by the authorities because they refused to worship the Roman emperor as their god. One of them, John, was banished to an island, where God gave him a message for the congregations. God told him: I know you; I know your situation, but I have something against you.

This is how Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider outlined the background to the Bible text he used on 12 November 2017 in Raipur (India): “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1: 9).

In the kingdom of God

“The first important point is: we are partakers of the kingdom of God,” the Chief Apostle said. After all, mankind was able to experience the presence, love, and grace of God on earth through Jesus Christ. “Today we experience the presence of God, His love and His grace through the Holy Spirit.”

The second point: the kingdom of God is present. Through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God was established on earth. Christ overcame death and evil. “We still benefit from His victory today,” the Chief Apostle said. “Through Him, and with His help, we can overcome evil. We want Jesus to be the King in our hearts.”

The third point: “We are waiting for the future kingdom of God,” the Chief Apostle said. We are waiting for the return of Christ to lead us into His kingdom, where there will be no more evil, suffering, or death.

In tribulations

The first Christians suffered from persecution. “We too live in a time of tribulation,” the Chief Apostle said and went on to elaborate:

“Many people today serve the god of money and possessions. Everything revolves around success, money, and prosperity. Of course we would like to live better lives, but not at all costs. Our God is Jesus Christ. The salvation of the soul is our priority.” And with such an attitude we are sometimes isolated in today’s society.

“The temptation of the first Christians was that the return of Christ, which they were waiting for, did not take place,” the Chief Apostle continued. “When our requests and wishes are not answered, then it is a test. For us it is a matter of abandoning ideas that displease God.”

In love

Today the same dangers lurk as in the past, the Chief Apostle said, and referred to the warnings given to the congregations in Asia Minor.

“Because you are lukewarm …” Being lukewarm means making compromises. Many people live according to the principle: making the most of your chances. “Do we really have to keep all the commandments? Is it really that serious if I tell a lie or if I take something that does not belong to me?” But Jesus told the congregations to be careful, there is great danger lurking.

“You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Faith without works is nothing more than a religion based on tradition. And a religion based on tradition is not a living faith.

“… that you have left your first love.” Because people are not nice to you, because they are against you, you stopped loving your neighbour. In the best case, you are just indifferent. In the worst case, you hate them. That is a big danger.

What can protect us from these dangers? Let us be kind and do good to our neighbour, and keep the commandments, the Chief Apostle asked the congregation. “There are plenty of good reasons to give up and not love our neighbour. But we cannot help but love, because this love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We believe in the final victory of love. That is our faith, our conviction.”

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Andreas Rother
6.12.2017
India, Divine service