23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25
ALMA Conference Theme: “….spur one another on toward love and good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24
Love AND good deeds… I’ve worked in some of the worst shanty towns in the Deep South. I’ve worked in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the inner city. I’ve helped in mercy around the world and at one of the worst natural disasters in history in a third world country. I have spent many a day recently in Ferguson to help care for all who have been affected by the recent unrest. And I’d like to think I spurred a good many people to more than a few good deeds. Soup kitchens, community centers, disaster relief, neighborhood renewal, reconciliation… good deeds of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, building homes for the homeless… we do our good deeds and spur one another on.
But what of love? What of love? Because I am here to tell you there are some pretty wretched folks out there. The unlovable of our society… those we may serve who are scam artists, thugs, criminals, lowlifes, the refuse of the world. Love? We may serve them, but like Job’s friends, we first want to know why mercy should be shown to someone who is getting what they deserve. Like the Pharisee, who sees the sinful woman of the city entering the house and thinks her filthy sin may rub off and tarnish their holiness. Or worse, if an unclean leper came to temple, can you imagine?
We may serve them with good deeds, but like the rich man who passed by the beggar Lazarus at his gate each day, we look down our nose at this homeless wretch who is beneath us – let the dogs tend to his wounds. Perhaps, we will have our Good Samaritan moment, but love the unloveable? Yes, when Jesus says as you have done it to the least we have done it to Him, we are the great, they are the least, and we humble ourselves to let them sit at our table, to be served by us. But is God actually telling us to love them as ourselves and to spur one another to do likewise? What sort of foolish love is this?
It is the love that is shown to you – by God. Yes, make no mistake, you are Job who comes into this world and will leave it with nothing to offer God, you are the leper covered in sins that rots your flesh, you are the sinful woman of the city who has no business in the house of a holy man – let alone who dares to touch the Holy One of God, you Lazarus are the beggar at the gate groveling for mercy. But this rich man — Jesus Christ — this Good Samaritan… He looks down upon you and has compassion that overflows from the very depths of His being, His love for you courses in His veins, and He pours Himself out until there is nothing left, to fill you up.
Did you hear what I said? For a wretched sinner like me… a lowlife, filthy, scum of the earth… God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, to fulfill the law, to sacrifice, to suffer and to bleed. And when I least deserved it, prayed “Father forgive.” In this greatest of good deeds, He dies on a cross, for me, to save me. What foolish love is this, on the cross? Dear God what have done – for me? You heal me of my wounds, you cleanse me of all that is unclean and corrupts, you feed me at your table with forgiveness/life/salvation, you clothe me in your righteousness, you give me my heavenly home.
And this grace, this undeserved love, it transforms us, it spurs us towards love and good deeds. For when we see the refuse of the world, we see the apple of God’s eye. When the lowly wretch sits at our table, we see the honored guest that we are humbled to serve and wash their feet. For as Christ says, as it is done to the least it is done to Him, our King. And so in the least we see a royal! We see one who is crowned with God’s mercy, we see one with value beyond compare. So let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… let us encourage one another… and all the more, all the more, as we see the Day of Christ’s return drawing near. In Jesus’ name. Amen.