Learning to walk in newness of life is not any easy task. By nature, we are sinners who naturally hate God and even our brother. In fact, the first murder was carried out by Cain who hated his brother, Abel. Our fallen inclination is to get even and get revenge on those who have done us wrong. We do not need to be taught to hate those who hate us or to hurt those who hurt us. It comes naturally. It is not natural to love those who hate us. It is not natural to love our enemies. Thus, God instructs us saying, “You shall not murder.”
We are warned about walking in our own way and being led astray from God. The Holy Spirit warns us, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” (1 John 2:9). And again, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus warns us, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). In Christ, we are being taught to do something that does not come naturally.
Christ comes to do something supernatural. He is incarnate love. Yet, Christ was hated and murdered by His own brothers. Just as Cain killed Abel, the sons of Israel put Jesus to death on the cross. Instead of acting like sons of Abraham, they acted like sons of the serpent who was a murdered from the beginning. It was the devil who deceived Adam and Eve robbing them of their lives. In Christ, we are no longer sons of darkness but sons of Light, because Jesus is the Light (John 8:12). As we walk in the Light, the blood of Jesus covers us. The blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24). The blood of Jesus speaks forgiveness, salvation, and life. Jesus is our true Brother. He is our Keeper who supports us in our physical needs. More than that, He keeps us and supports in our spiritual needs. He comes to heal those who have been hurt and harmed in both body and soul.
As we learn “to fear, love, and trust in God above all things” (Small Catechism: 1st Commandment), we begin to appreciate all the great gifts that God gives to us and to others. He has given to us the gift of Himself, His Name, and His Word. Likewise, He has given to us the gift of our parents through which we receive the gift of life. Thus, we move our attention from the Fourth Commandment to the Fifth Commandment. We are starting to recognize that every good gracious gift comes from God. He establishes His order and institution for distributing these gifts and for retaining these gifts. “For all of this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” (Small Catechism: The Creed, 1st Article). Without Christ and the Holy Spirit we cannot begin to keep this Commandment. Christ stands as our High Priest to interceded for us and pour out the Spirit of Intercession upon us. We pray that God would enable us to forgive. We pray that God would give us our daily bread to help and support us in our physical needs. As God blesses us, we can bless others to help and support them in their physical needs.
They say that the teenage years are the best years of one’s life. Well, that’s what people say. In reality the teenage years can be some of the most difficult and challenging years of one’s life. Teens hurt and harm each other faster than they can text each other. Who wants to be hurt or harmed? Who wants to be hated or harassed? As we are instructed to walk in God’s way, we begin to understand the golden rule. We do unto others as we want them to do unto us. Let’s face it, a friend today might become a frenemy tomorrow. Even worse, a BFF tomorrow might become a foe the next day. Even worse than that, a member of the youth group, a fellow brother or sister in Christ, might do something that causes you to stew and brew inside with disgust and dislike. The teenage years are filled with antagonists, bullies, backstabbers, and haters. Haters gonna hate. Sinners gonna sin.
However, the forgiven gonna forgive. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 8:5). While we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. In Christ, we are learning not to hate, hurt, or harm our neighbor. In Christ, we are beginning to resist the temptation to sin and starting to forgive those who sin against us. In Christ, we are instructed to let the hatred go. By the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit leads us as beloved children to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). We are learning to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving as God in Christ forgives us (Ephesians 4:32). We are being taught to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2).
God is life. God’s Word gives life. Life is a gift from God. In the Fifth Commandment, we first recognize that God gives life, and then we rejoice in the gift of life. In this Commandment, the gift of life is to be preserved. God has given the gift of life to us and to others, even our enemies. As baptized children of God, we desire to help others keep the gifts that God gives to them.
Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, NM
Created: June 2nd, 2017