Tuesday of the Week of Lent I
But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Lenten disciplines often revolve around taking on some special, unusual devotional activity aimed at deepening our hunger for God, our commitment to God, and our sacrifice for God. The traditional Lenten activities are almsgiving (money for the poor and needy), prayer and fasting. (See Matthew 6) Each of these are time-tested, valuable disciplines that focus our attention during the season of Lent. Another, related to these three, might be “love of God and neighbor.”
Martin Luther writes, “After I have apprehended Christ by faith, have died to the Law, have been justified from sin and have been freed through Christ from death, devil, and hell, I do good works. I love God, thank Him, I practice love toward my neighbor. But this love or the works that flow from it neither form my faith nor grace it, but my faith forms and graces love. This is our theology.” (What Luther Says, p. 822)
Because Christ has died and was raised that we might be justified, freed from sin, death and the devil, we do good works of love. We love God, thank Him, and next to that, we love our neighbor. Sometimes that’s easier than other times. It’s hard to love my neighbor when my neighbor is harsh, cruel, unkind. It’s also hard to love God when we are struggling, in pain, grieving. Blessedly, Luther reminds us that love doesn’t create faith, but love flows from faith—not in ourselves, but in God who comes to us in Jesus Christ, a gift of love, unmerited and undeserved. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17). It is God’s love that creates faith in us, in Jesus, and it is that faith in God and His love that causes us to respond in love. How then can love of God and neighbor be a Lenten discipline?
Focus on God’s love in Jesus during Lent! Read John 3 and I John 4 daily to hear again of God’s great love for us! Consider not a wrathful, condemning God who judges sin, but meditate on the true God who, while hating sin, loves the sinner. And then, let us seek to love the sinner, too! Let’s seek to love the “lovable,” while also seeking to love the “unlovable”! Reach out with a phone call, card, kind gesture to the difficult family member, church member or next-door neighbor, expecting nothing in return, but only to share God’s love in some small way!
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for your love in the gift of Jesus, your Son. Help me, in faith, to love you and my neighbor more and more each day. Amen.
Lenten Response: Read John 3 and I John 4, and share God’s love with someone today!
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Additional Daily Readings: Genesis 36:10–43; Psalm 47; Matthew 22:34–46
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2CMv4Lp
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.