25th Sunday after Pentecost/Veteran’s Sunday
November 11, 2018
“The Gates of Hell; A Lack of Love”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today as I conclude this sermon series called “The Gates of Hell” is Leviticus 19:17-18.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
My dear friends,
Today is the 4th and final sermon in this series that I call “The Gates of Hell.” So far we have examined how neither sin nor the world nor divisions among us nor even the gates of Hell themselves can ever stop the Christian Church on earth despite statistical analysis or demographic reports. Today we consider a new issue – a lack of love, the idea being that the Church will fall because Christians will be unwilling to love their neighbor as themselves.
When I was growing up, my parents poisoned me on a regular basis. No, they didn’t mess with my food or anything. They poisoned me with their music playing day and night in the car and the house and everywhere I went! Poisoned me with their 1960s weird hippie music: their Neil Diamond and their ABBA and their Barry Manilow and their (shudder) Barbara Streisand. It’s a miracle the neighbors never called Child Protective Services. Anywho, I distinctly remember hearing one song over and over and it’s burned in my mind so much so that not even 80s heavy metal could erase the stain from my brain. The song is called “What the World Needs Now” and it has been recorded several times: Jackie Deshannon, Diana Ross, and Dionne Warwick among others. The refrain goes like this: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” Hippies. But then again…maybe they were on to something.
What the world needs now is love. It is God’s love that motivates us to be the men and women who we ought to be. It is God’s love that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light. It is God’s love from the start to the finish of all of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, that speaks about Him who is love and who loved us so that He might make us beloved people of God.
The command in Leviticus is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which is given for a good reason. When we fail to show love towards others both in and outside the church, the world sees that and it sends a very hypocritical message, which is one of the most common accusations leveled at the church…it’s full of hypocrites. Well…the church IS full of forgiven, loved sinners. This much I’ll admit. Full of hypocrites? Probably not so much.
Does that mean it’s easy to love your neighbor as yourself? No, because you and I know that some people do more than just play music we don’t like. They say things and do things and post things on social media that make us angry, and then what we want to do is to give them so many of these (right fist) that they beg for one of these (left fist). That’s the old sinful nature in us, but we aren’t called to be vengeful or resentful or violent. We are to reflect the love of God to a world that has too little love.
In Jesus, we know the true love of God that motivates us to love even when we are not loved; we can overcome a lack of love WITH love…it’s just that easy! It is God’s love that moves us to forgive when it’s hard for us to forgive. It is God’s love that motivates us to be kind when somebody is not that kind. It is indeed a challenge to live in this world today, because the world hates us. But we are to reflect the love of Jesus to the world.
What does Moses tell us in the words “love your neighbor as yourself”? It is a privilege to be a neighbor. A neighbor is someone who cares, someone who goes out of his way to reach another person. Last week I reminded you that the people here with you are your brothers and sisters; they are the people you will spend forever with. Those same people – the people to your right and the person to your left – they are your neighbors, your brothers and sisters who need to know that they are loved. Don’t worry…I’m not going to have you do some hippie, touchy-feely thing where you turn and tell your neighbor how much you love them. But that does beg the question. How do you let those closest to you know that you love them? Do you tell them? How often? Do you show them your sacrificial, forgiving grace-filled love? If so, how?
Ten days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, residents of North Platte, NE heard a rumor that soldiers from the NE National Guard Company D, would be coming through on a troop train on their way to the West Coast. About 500 people showed up at the train depot with food, gifts, letters, and love to give the boys. When the train showed up, it was not the NE National Guard Company D boys on board; it was the soldiers from the Kansas National Guard Company D. The North Platte residents decided to give out their gifts to these soldiers they did not know. It was a spontaneous act of genuine devotion and love that touched both the soldiers and the people who came to the depot that day. A few days later, a suggestion was made for the town to organize a canteen, so they could do something similar for every troop train that came through. For the next 4 ½ years, the people of North Platte met every troop train that came through their town. Every day, they prepared sandwiches, cookies, cold drinks, and hot coffee. They had baskets of magazines and books to give away to the soldiers, and snacks for the train some days for as many as 8000 soldiers and sailors. By the time the last train arrived on April 1, 1946, six million soldiers had been blessed by the North Platte Canteen. 45,000 volunteers had served faithfully until the war was over and most of the troops had been transported home. If the residents of North Platte were that dedicated to doing whatever they could to help win World War II and serve the soldiers, Christians should be even more committed to lovingly serve the Lord and their neighbors any way they can. We may not have a canteen, but how can/do you serve our campus, our school, or any of our ongoing ministries?
Thank God for the reality that we will stand with Him some day in paradise when the final victory is won because there is NOTHING – sin, the world, divisions, a lack of love, or even the gates of hell themselves – that can stop us from living and loving as the redeemed people of God that we are and will be forever. God grant it all for Jesus’ sake.