Romans 12:9-13 - Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
In his novel about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, novelist Eric Remarque tells about a German soldier who in an assault dropped into a shell hole. There, to his consternation, he found an Englishman. After the first shock, he considered what he should do. Should he proceed to bayonet this man? The thought died immediately when he noticed the man was severely wounded. The German gave the Englishman a drink from his canteen and was rewarded by a look of deep gratitude. The Englishman then pointed to his breast pocket from which the German drew an envelope containing pictures of the man's family. The man obviously wanted to look at them once more. After taking one last look at the picture of his wife and children, the English soldier died.
Reflecting on this incident, theologian Helmut Thielicke remarks on how the attitude of this German soldier changed from hostility to understanding. Slowly, he began to see only another man, another human being, a wounded and defenseless man. In the process, the German himself became not just a soldier but a man. He had another way of seeing, as our Lord saw the people on Calvary when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34a). There is nothing sentimental about that. This is love that works, firm and strong enough to see others as they are, dying men like ourselves.
Love, as St. Paul described it, goes to work for God. It does that or it is not really love: "Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work, and let us keep the fires of the Spirit burning as we do our work for God," he said in so many words. Love is an offering. God's offering to the world must be our offering to Him. He is pleased with our works of love—from the greatest to the least. As Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40b).
Christ has come into this world of ours, with all its sham and pretense, offering real forgiveness for real sins. He invites real faith that works by real love—love able to take the hard knocks of life with real toughness and to respond to the world's need with real and warm affection. Love like this cannot be bought; it can only be given. It is given to the whole world in Christ who gave Himself for each of us. It is given even now to the whole world through faithful people, loyal to Jesus and, therefore, ready and willing to express their faith with unabashed love.
THE PRAYER: Lord God, make us instruments of Your love, operating in this world. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
From "No Imitation Love," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have you ever shown kindness to an acknowledged "enemy" and been surprised at the result?
2. It would be hard for Paul to write these words if he didn't practice them. What are some examples of him doing so?
3. What does genuine love look like in real life?
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