Reflections: April 14, 2021
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
By Alfonso Espinosa
What does God say about all these commandments? He says, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments." (Small Catechism: The Close of the Commandments)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Luther teaches on the meaning of the close of the commandments: "What does this mean? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands."
Too often we hear a watered-down version of what it means for the Christian "to fear God." It is true that we don't walk around waiting for God to zap us with lightning. God wants us to know that on account of Christ He truly loves us. At the same time, we should be afraid to break God's commandments. We should hate the thought of doing so. Therefore, as Luther teaches, if we break God's commandments, we should fear God's wrath. Is this for Christians, too? Absolutely! So, our Lutheran confessions in many places teach us that Christians are familiar with the "terrors of conscience," because according to our sinful nature, we break God's Law.
What does God want us to do? Does He want us to run and hide from Him like Adam and Eve did in Genesis 3? No way! Does He want us to rebel against Him and act like we don't care? Ridiculous! Does He want us to pretend that we don't sin? Definitely not! Instead, He says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This is what we do every day as we live in our Holy Baptism into Jesus! What should motivate us? The fact that God is "a jealous God." This doesn't mean that God is insecure (that's the sinful meaning), but that God loves us so much that He fights for us at all cost, even to the point of giving up His own Son to forgive us for our law-breaking. As we live as Christians now, we do not live fearing God, but we live fearing the prospect of rebellion, and when we do break His commandments, we run to Jesus, the friend of sinners. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
"You have this Law to see therein That you have not been free from sin But also that you clearly see How pure toward God life should be." Have mercy, LORD! ("These Are the Holy Ten Commands" LSB 581, st.11)
The Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa is the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA. He is also the author of two books: Faith That Sees Through the Culture and Faith That Engages the Culture.
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