“We know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this we have confidence for the day of judgment. Love is being perfected in us. As He is so also are we in this world. That is, there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (cf. 1 John 4:16-21).
I don’t know how often you deal with sins against the Fifth Commandment, murder, summarized by Jesus as anger towards or hatred of brother.
I don’t know how often you deal with these sins, summarized even further, in the last few weeks, by basically everyone on the planet, into the one word “racism.”
I don’t know how often you deal with the heartfelt hatred of man, but the world has no clue how to cure anger, hatred, or racism, because the world—and, in general, even Christians, Lutherans, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, you name it, we fail to assert the truth of the word of God: that racism—like murder and hateful speech—is a symptom of the first problem of unbelief.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). He doesn’t love God. No one should hate his brother, that’s true, but the first problem is unbelief.
If you want to fix racism, anger, hatred, coarse speech, and the like, stop hating your brother.
If you want to stop hating your brother, love him.
If you want to love your brother, forgive him.
And that’s why the world is completely incapable of fixing anything. That’s why the world is dazed, lost, damned, and confused—they think there’s such a thing as love apart from faith in the One True God.
And there’s not.
“We know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).
Love, true love, exists only in, with, and under Jesus.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
And this is the love of God: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
His love forms and informs ours.
Love gives of and from self.
It takes what’s dear to us and gives it to another.
But it goes to help our brother, our neighbor, our friends—and even those who hate us.
The rich man did not love Lazarus.
That’s clear because the rich man goes to hell.
He may have known Father Abraham, but he disagrees with him.
The rich man spoke with the parabolic representation of the presence of God—and said, “No.”
In his life, I’m sure the rich man, at his sumptuous feasts, would boast of his love of God, but he had no love for his neighbor—so he had no love of God.
Nor did he know the self-effacing, self-sacrificial love God has for us in Christ.
The rich man was a liar. The truth was not in him.
He was of his father the devil, and deceit was his mother-tongue.
Jesus tells us of the rich man and Lazarus so that we would be warned against the first problem, unbelief.
So that we would know that apart from faith in Christ, apart from the Gospel, apart from the forgiveness of sins earned for all in the crucifixion of Jesus and given to you in, with, and under the Word of God proclaimed, apart from God coming to you, helping you, making you His own child, feeding you from His own side, apart from the work God accomplishes in you, to save you, there is no hope, only hatred.
The rich man loved not Lazarus, because he loved not God, and he went to hell for it.
But Jesus tells us of the rich man and Lazarus—also—that we would hear the Word of God, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
That we would hear and know and believe the love God has for us in Christ and have confidence for the day of judgment, which is coming.
Lazarus died at the rich man’s door, but he held no hatred in his heart—for the rich man or, if we can assume, the activists that supported him but did nothing or worse.
We know Lazarus held no grudge because Jesus says, in the Parable of the Wicked Servant, that the master summoned the wicked servant and said to him: “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [Then Jesus concludes:] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:32-35).
You want to fix racism? Stop hating your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your friends, your Facebook friends, and the poor man at your door.
You want to stop hating your brother? Love him.
You want to love your brother? Forgive him.
As you believe that God has forgiven you in Christ, believe that God has forgiven your brother.
As you know all the sins that everyone else commits, all the foibles, all the failures, all the faults in everyone else’s family, so you also know, sinner, that among them, you are chief.
And God has forgiven even a wretch like you.
Lazarus means “One Whom God Helps.”
It’s a beautifully faithful name, because it confesses the complete inadequacy of the individual before God—and it confesses a merciful, helpful God.
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you can’t. But our gracious God comes to help, save, comfort, and defend you.
Fix the first problem.
Believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Teach others to do the same.
Know and believe the love God has for you.
Abide in the love of God, the Gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
And He abides in you—unto life everlasting.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 1 Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt