Proper 18
Romans 13:8-14

The heart of life in the Christian community is expressed in the “one anothers” of the New Testament-encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens and spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to name a few. The most all-encompassing “one another” is found in this week’s text: “love one another.”
Bella Freund is not a Christian. She is an ultra-orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem. She was at a street market in Jerusalem one day when an Arab man pulled out a knife and stabbed two innocent shoppers. Incensed Israelis began to chase the man, many of them drawing pistols as they ran. When she saw what was happening, she tackled the man and put her body on top of his. She held on tight, enduring the spitting and the abuse of the angry mob until the police arrived to take the man into custody.
She overcame her life-long hatred of Arabs and her strict religious teaching that she should not touch a man other than her husband in order to perform an act of mercy.
Isn’t it interesting that the command “love one another” is repeated so many times in the pages of Scripture? A devout, highly observant Jewish woman saves the life of an Arab man with evil intent, and yet Christians have to be reminded to love one another.

I. Love fulfills the Law.
Paul has written about the Christian’s responsibility to the government and has said that we should give to everyone what we owe them. He turns the focus within the household of faith and says that the only indebtedness we should have is the obligation, or the debt, of love. Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words when he says that whatever commandments there are, they are summarized by the exhortation to love. When we love we fulfill the law.

II. Love because the day is near.
Paul lived in the expectation that he was living in the last days. Christ was coming soon. If that is the case, it is all the more important that we live in love. It’s all the more important that we take following Christ seriously. If we are spiritually asleep, we need to wake up. We need to put all sinful behavior aside and clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Reading the biographies of men and women who have been greatly used of God can be a bit intimidating. We read of the prayer lives of some of God’s great saints and say, “I could never spend three hours every morning in prayer.” That’s why the story of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army is so interesting.
He decided as a young man that he wanted his life to count for God. At the age of 20 he made a list things he would strive to do to draw closer to God. Among the items on that list, he said, “I will rise every morning sufficiently early and have a few minutes, not less than five, in private prayer.” That doesn’t sound very saintly, does it? Saints spend hours, not minutes, in prayer. The point for us now is that for Booth, that represented a next step for him if he were to take seriously being a follower of Christ. It was an improvement over what he was then doing. To paraphrase the other items on his list, he said that he would avoid idle talk, try to be a passionate but meek disciple of Christ who encouraged others to think about their souls, read four chapters of God’s Word every day, and remind himself regularly to cultivate a lifestyle of self-denial.
Those actions represented a reasonable next step for a young William Booth. Look how many people have received the love of Christ through the life, witness and legacy of that one man. What’s your next step?

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