You Shall Love Your Crooked Neighbor. . .

Imagine: There’s a judge in a remote town in upper Northern Luzon who had a son who was in trouble with the law, and was to be sentenced to a year in jail. Of course the judge was not supposed to sentence his own son, but no substitute judge could be brought in because of massive flooding which had washed out the only road into town. So this is what the judge did: He said, “John my son, the crime you committed requires a year in jail. However, I am ready to retire, and it will do more good for society if you could remain with your family. Accordingly, I am going to do the time for you.” And with that, he banged the gavel, and stepped down and let the bailiff lead him away. Farfetched? No doubt. But the biblical solution to the problem of evil is like it.

I was raised back in Michigan in a church that taught three main S’s: Sin, Salvation, Service:
the essence of Christian doctrine and life. One of the creeds of the church was the Heidelberg Catechism, which starts with these words:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, 1but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, 2to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, 4
and has set me free from all the power of the devil. 5
He also preserves me in such a way 6 that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head; 7indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. 8Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life 9
and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him. 10

1.1 Cor 6:19, 20. 2.Rom 14:7-9 3.1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14. 4.1 Pet 1:18,19; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2. 5.Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14, 15; 1 Jn 3:8. 6.Jn 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess 3:3; 1 Pet 1:5 7.Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18. 8.Rom 8:28. 9.Rom 8:15, 16; 2 Cor 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph 1:13, 14. 10.Rom 8:14.

2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. First, how great my sins and misery are; 1
second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; 2
third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance. 3

• 1.Rom 3:23, 1 Jn 1:10. 2. Jn 17:3; Acts 4:12; 10:43. 3 .Mt 5:16; Rom 6:13; Eph 5:8-10; 1 Pet 2:9, 10.

“How great my sins and miseries are.” What an accurate description of the human heart! We all “miss the mark” (one definition of sin, in the Greek). The Bible says we are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2: 1). We are told to love God, heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Or as W.H. Auden put it, You shall love your crooked neighbor, with all your crooked heart.

Who among us does this, really? That’s what sin is, most basically: A lack, a failure, of love.
Its signs are all around us, alcoholism, drug and sex addiction; adultery and domestic violence; broken promises and families; greed and graft; estafa and political dishonesty; “wars and rumors of wars. . .”

But NEWS FLASH! God, our true Father, loves us anyway, proving it at the Cross, and we can come to know Him personally, as we let him in as Lord and Savior. Picture the resurrected Jesus, with nail-pierced arms held out for us, then waving us forward to life and love!

Yes, that is salvation: Knowing we are loved, and learning to love others. . . “And you has He made alive” says Scripture. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Eph. 1: 7, 8.) And “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the good deeds that He has prepared for us.” (Eph. 2: 8.) I. e., Kingdom living, forgiveness, love; being salt and light in a sin-darkened world. Making a difference for good!

Do you think the son whose father took his place just cheerfully went out and committed more crimes, because he was “off the hook”? I doubt it. St. Paul asks the question this way, Shall we sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. No, we died to sin: how can we live in it any longer?. . . (Romans 6: 1,2. )
My pastor tells me there are some people who go to church as a cover-up for their sins, which they are not repenting of. But sin is boring, unloving, dead, the brain not at its best. And “What a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal. 6: 8.)
Salvation means the brain being at its best; it means wholeness, learning to love, and serving forever in a Kingdom of Love, which starts now. The early Church Father, St. Ireneus said: the Glory of God is man fully alive. Are you really alive, whether you go to church or not?

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