To review, Jesus gave the ongoing service of His Gospel (the Holy Ministry) so that an intergenerational body of sinners (the church) would be continually built up into one common and united faith (Jude 23). This ministry is His method by which His body (the Holy Christian Church) “grows up into Christ.” Through the ministry of the Gospel that unites His body in the one true faith, Jesus stabilizes His body against the prevailing winds of “fad-driven” Christianity—a faith that is “tossed back and forth” with every whim of the world and every will of the heart.
But Jesus didn’t leave this “growing up into Himself” merely to be passively guarded. The true faith, built up by the ministry of the Gospel, is also proactive—a dual action carried on among its members. And so one action out of two is bad.
Martin Luther boils the character of the Christian and of the body of Christ down to two actions: faith and love. Faith receives the truths about Jesus Christ and His forgiveness publicly from the pastor or privately through our fellow Christians. Love gives the truth about Christ and His forgiveness to our neighbor. While faith precedes love in order, neither has continued existence without the other.
What does this truth in love have to do with Christian families? Consider which of the following scenarios is better: 1) A family that is routinely in church to receive God’s forgiveness on Sunday morning, but in their home life, the husband never communicates that same loving forgiveness to his wife, the mother never shares this forgiveness of Christ with her often-disobedient children, and the children, having never heard such words exchanged between Christians, only harbor grudges and anger toward one another; or 2) The family that routinely forgoes church in favor of spending loving time with one another in camping, fishing, eating, and laughing. Here the word “forgive” easily rolls off the tongue because it really serves to say, “your sin is no big deal, I’ve done the same to you, even steven.”
If you are perplexed, that’s good. There is no “better” option here. Regarding the first scenario, the truth of God’s forgiveness in Christ is voided by robbing it of truth’s love of one’s neighbor (think of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21–35). In the second scenario, there are human love and togetherness between family members, but they are void of God’s love for other sinners in the truth of Christ. Jesus calls this lip-service faith and He condemns the hearts of those who practice it (Matthew 15:8). The toughest news of all? Many “Christian” families are well-practiced at both.
The great news (the Gospel) is this: Jesus’ holy life is perfect truth, and the fact that He gave His truly holy life into death is perfect love. The truth of Jesus’ sinless life that He submitted with love into death is yours: He died for your loveless truths and your truthless love. Through faith, Jesus fills you with the truth of His saving life and death for you, and He gives to you the joyous privilege of communicating this truth with love to your siblings, parents, and children, especially when they sin against you. Jesus has filled you, dear parents and grandparents, with the truth of His forgiveness. He gives you the freedom to give His forgiveness and love to your children. What a joyous freedom!
The Christian family is a wonderful God-given environment in which to exercise this dual action—God’s truth spoken in love. In every Christian family, where sinful words and actions will be evident, there will be many opportunities to proclaim God’s forgiveness. For the truth of God’s love is this: Where sin is plenty, God’s grace in Christ is more plentiful still (Romans 5:20)! And wherever God’s grace in Christ is plentiful, there His Church is growing up into Christ.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, according to your mercy, forgive me my sins of loveless truth and truthless love. In your merciful love to me, compel me to speak the truth of your forgiveness to my family members. Amen.
Reverend Kyle Madson
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church