by The Rev. Brent Kuhlman
What a fool! The apostle doesn’t seem to have a clue. You can just hear Napoleon Dynamite: “Idiot!”
After all, the religion of the world is: YOU”VE GOT TO LOVE YOURSELF. Take care of number one! Climb to the top of the mountain. And kick in the teeth of anyone who gets in your way. Someone hurts you. You demolish him in return. Life is a battle royale of establishing yourself as king.
Paul, on the other hand, writes: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”
Why? Because you’re mercy-ed in Christ Jesus. Good Friday-ed. Died for. Baptized. “In view of God’s mercy,” there is the freedom from the love of self to love for members of Christ’s body, your neighbors. Love even for your enemy.
“In view of God’s mercy,” there is now the life of self-sacrifice. Putting yourself last and others first. Using your body not for self-indulgence but for sacrificial service.
“In view of God’s mercy.” That’s faith in Christ. When that’s right, then you have room to move around in the world. To be the Lord’s instrument for good. “In view of God’s mercy … don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.” You’re nothing. Jesus is everything. And now Good Friday Jesus has good use for you to be His hands and mouth for service in the world. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual worship.”
That’s done as Jesus uses you in view His Good Friday mercy to be of help for people.
Paul’s list is quite long. Let’s review just a few. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Do not take revenge . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink … overcome evil with good.”
Why? Because you’re mercy-ed in Christ. All is forgiven. You are right with God for Christ’s sake. He loves you. Proof is His Son’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament given and shed for you for forgiveness, life and salvation. Realigned with God via Christ’s Calvary sacrifice, you are restored for loving, sacrificial service to your neighbor in this world through your body. Jesus brings you into a proper relationship with God the Father AND with those all around you. God is worshiped by faith. The neighbor is served by acts of sacrificial love, our spiritual act of worship done in our vocations. This is “God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.” Or as Jesus Himself puts it: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Thanks be to God for using Paul for the “renewing of our minds” and the good use of our bodies. In the Name of Jesus.
Pastor Kuhlman serves Trinity Lutheran Church in Murdock, NE. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Higher Things.