Summary: In the face of tragedy God strengthens us as we keep on loving each other the way that he designed.
What a tragic day it was. The massive loss of unsuspecting human life brought about by an unprovoked attack is saddening. There is also another reason that makes September 11, 2001, a sad day. That was a sad day indeed because it took a tragedy of that proportion to get Americans to think beyond their own existence and consider the hurts and needs of other people. Still there is more sadness in the events surrounding last Tuesday. While those events have raised a certain level of spiritual awareness in the American psyche – as a nation we’ve missed the reminder that the battle against evil is not only with forces outside of us – but it’s also a battle that needs to be leveled against the evil living within each one of us.
That’s why I rejoice that you are here with me now. In the text for this morning our God through the writer of Hebrews sounds the trumpet and calls us to put up our defenses against the attacks of the devil and our sinful flesh. God sharpens the weapons of choice, his Law and his Gospel, for this spiritual battle. Through his Word he bolsters our resolve and strengthens our unity to continue defending ourselves arm in arm against the evil lurking not only around but also within each one of us. As we journey through enemy territory on our way to our eternal home our God urges us: Keep on Loving Each Other! Keep on loving each other 1) in the face of hardship, 2) in the face of temptation, and 3) in the face of weakness.
God urges us to keep on loving each other in the midst of the attacks by the devil, the sinful world, and our own sinful flesh. It’s as though he were saying, “Love each other so much that you’re careful to watch one another’s backs so that nothing and no one leads you away from me.” That’s true when one of our brothers and sisters in Christ is facing hardship. When we see a brother or sister in Christ in need, Christian love not only moves us to pray for that person, but Christian love also seeks to take appropriate action. Take Abraham and Lot for example. Each on a separate occasion welcomed weary travelers into their homes. Though they didn’t know it they were actually welcoming angels to stay with them. We will probably never entertain angels but we know the value that Jesus himself places on care and concern for the needs of others, especially fellow Christians. What a surprise it will be to hear Jesus say to us on the Last Day, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
More often we face the difficult hardships of physical or emotional suffering, sometimes just because we are Christians. When we see our brothers and sisters in Christ getting pulled away from their Lord by the stress and strain of life Christian love moves us to do all we can to lend a hand or offer emotional support as we encourage them to return to their Lord. Our support is also crucial when our Christian brothers and sisters suffer insult, ridicule, or mockery because of their faith. At those times Christian love moves us to share in that suffering with them, whether that’s with our prayers, our words of encouragement, willingly listening to their hurts, or offering a shoulder to cry on. We do all of this willingly because Jesus has made us members of one body, his, so that when one of us rejoices we all rejoice together, and when one of us suffers we all suffer together.
As Christians perhaps it’s not difficult to keep on loving the members of our Christian family whose faces are familiar and the people we know quite well. But are we eager to share our Christian love with those whose faces that are new in the crowd? Do we work extra hard to invite new people into our Christian family? Do we work hard to make them feel welcome once they’re here? Do we go out of our way to let them know how special they are to us and how happy we are to have them with us and to learn more about them and their lives? For many one of the most difficult parts of the battle is finding a platoon with which to fight. That’s where we have a wonderful opportunity to keep putting our Christian love into action – not only for the veteran soldiers but the new recruits as well.
The devil loves to put obstacles in our path that make the victory march to heaven seem difficult. Unfortunately our sinful flesh takes one look at those obstacles of hardship and is quick to suggest that we surrender the victory and bow our heads in defeat. So that we might not become discouraged and lose hope God brings us together to lean on one another as we love one another in the face of hardships. That’s not the only time we need to lean on one another. We need one another when the devil and our flesh ambush us with the assault of temptation.