When love pays the bill

The gospel contains some unbelievable accounts, in a positive sense. For example, there is the story of the Good Samaritan, who not only talked, but also took action. What a good example for Christians today!

“Living in accordance with the gospel”—such is the rather unwieldy motto of the Sunday divine services in the New Apostolic congregations over the month of July. It can be described as unwieldy because, while it is quite easy to read, it is all the more difficult to implement. Just as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows: this individual saw a man lying half dead on the street—robbed and beaten to the ground. Several passers-by walked past without paying him any heed. Only the man from Samaria stopped. And not only that: he even took care of the injured man! He looked after him, took him to an inn, and paid all the costs associated with his care. He even gave the innkeeper a kind of blank cheque to cover any further costs that should arise in the event more care was necessary. His actions were exemplary, and totally in line with the gospel. The Bible text expresses this as follows: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion” (Luke 10: 33).

A possible moral of the story for us today might be: the commandment to love one’s neighbour does not infringe on a person’s right to take care of his or her own needs. It does, however, impose clear limits on egoism, and calls upon each and every one of us to treat our fellow human beings with love.

Taking on responsibility

The sermon on the third Sunday of July will deal with the personal responsibility of the individual. How is his or her relationship with the congregation? With the other believers? What responsibility does he or she take for the creation? The Church? His or her neighbour? The salvation of his or her own soul? What quickly becomes clear here is that those who truly take on responsibility will exhibit this visibly in their personal surroundings with works of faith and of love.

To stay in keeping with the language of the Old Testament, human beings must “sow” and not only be content to “reap”. They cannot simply take what they need, but must also do their part to contribute to the well-being of all, and to provide for the future. This makes it clear that we are personally and collectively responsible for the preservation of the earth and the distribution of its natural resources. We cannot simply exploit the natural resources of the earth and count on the idea that God will simply provide for our descendants.

In much the same way, God has assigned us a place in the Church. This is our spiritual habitat.

  • We are personally and collectively responsible for the atmosphere in the congregation: let us watch over the content of our conversations.
  • Let us respect the priority of the Church: let us not expect the Church to assign greater importance to our personal expectations than on the preaching of salvation.
  • Let us prepare the Church of tomorrow: sometimes we must give up ideas and traditions that are not relevant for salvation in the sense of the gospel.

Love is supposed to grow

“We endeavour to grow in love”—this message is to define the sermon on the fourth Sunday of the month. Without love for God and love for our neighbour, we will not be able to see God. The spiritual maturity of the followers of Jesus Christ will be measured by their love for God and their neighbour. This is one reason why Chief Apostle Schneider calls upon us to practise love among our fellow human beings as the bond of perfection: “Love is an identifying feature of the new creation in Christ within us. As we can see with Christ Himself, this new creation needs no reasons to show love. It simply loves by its very nature.” Such love does not consist of performing a specific number of good deeds, but rather of following the example of Jesus Christ. In concrete terms, this means:

  • being more tolerant toward others than we are at present.
  • fighting against the egocentrism that is so prevalent in our time, and instead taking an interest in the lot of others.
  • forgiving others more resolutely and avoiding any discussion of those things that have already been forgiven.

Photo: Lucian_3D

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Peter Johanning
Divine service