A few weeks ago I was praying Treasury of Daily Prayer for my morning devotion and the appointed Gospel was from John 15. There, juxtaposed in neighboring verses Jesus tells us “the world hates love.”
“These things I command you, so that you will love one another. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:17–18, ESV)
Jesus had given His men His love – love that called them to repentance from their sin and bestowed on them forgiveness for their sin. He was about to give them Himself. He would lay down His life for His friends to deliver them from their sins. He loved them to death. Abiding in His love (which is His death and His forgiveness) they would love others in the same way. He would give them the charge to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in His name to all nations. (Luke 24:47). This love – the preaching of repentance and forgiveness – would produce fruit. It would produce the fruit of salvation, the fruit of disciples, the fruit of sanctified and holy lives among God’s holy people. This fruit would last for all eternity among those who were loved into faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit working through His Word.
What a glorious calling to be a pastor, to be called to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. We have the Word which saves and delivers from the depths of this fallen world. We preach a love for the loveless, the unloved, and the unloveable. There is not one for whom Christ did not die. While all of us are His natural enemies because of our sins, He does not regard us as such. He does not want us to continue in sin that leads to death and eternal judgment. His call to repentance from sin and His forgiveness for sin is love.
Called to love in this way I hate no one. Oh, to be sure, I get angry when people sin, but I wish no harm upon them. (I do sometimes wish harm upon the young men who create fatherless orphans because they want sex without marriage, but I have never harmed one, and usually repent when I would like to harm one.) I am angered and saddened by the sin that will wreck lives, break homes and open the door for Satan to scatter his chaos, but I desire no evil and wish no harm to befall those who sin. Instead I strive to deliver them with God’s Word. I call on sinners to flee from their sin and cling to Christ.
Loving in this way I am hated, as Jesus promised. I should not be surprised at this. The truth is right there in our Lord’s Word to His apostles. Love one another and the world will hate you as it hated Me. Perhaps there is another reason I get angry at sin. I don’t want to be hated. I want people to like me, but when I learn of another person’s sin, I know that I am called to love them as Christ loved me. And they are probably going to hate me for it. The love I have for sinners is the love of calling them to repentance for their sins and fleeing to Christ Jesus to forgiveness.
As Christ died for all sinners His love is for all sinners. So I call the gossip and the gambler to repent. I call the addict and the adulterer to repent. I call the heterosexual and the homosexual lusters to repent. I call the church skippers and marriage wreckers to repent. I strive not to be angry with them. I don’t wish harm upon them. I am saddened by what they are doing and I don’t want them to suffer now, and worse, for all eternity. There is a Way out, only one Way – the love of God in Christ Jesus. He loves in this way. He dies for sin.
He didn’t take your sin so you could keep on sinning. The blood of God shed at Calvary is not divine permission to love whatever (or whomever) you want. It is forgiveness from God Himself. Jesus put an end to sin. It’s dead, buried, never to be raised again by Him. So as His baptized, forgiveness, and bloodied people, we live lives of repentance. This is not a fun or pleasant life; it is simply Life (with a a capital L) – the only Life there is – Life being loved by Jesus, Life that repents of sins and flees to Jesus. That’s the Love I preach. That’s the Life I call people to live. I am confident it is the loving thing to do because that’s what Jesus gave us to do. The world hates this love, just as Jesus said. Once more (as always) He is right.