Word of the Month

Love conquers all

July 2011

When Apostle Paul gave his farewell address to the elders of Ephesus he concluded by quoting the words of the Lord: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (cf. Acts 20: 35). Thereafter it says that Paul knelt down and prayed with all those present, and then they bid one another a warm farewell.

The words of the Lord that are quoted here – “It is more blessed to give than to receive” – are not recorded in any of the Gospels. Paul is apparently making reference to another source, possibly even an oral tradition of this statement made by Jesus.

As I see it, this proverb of Jesus has two main elements. First, we should pay special attention to the weak and, secondly, give them something in order to help them lay off their weaknesses over time.

Let us apply these words on a spiritual level: I am particularly thinking of those who are weak in faith. Let us turn to them in the strength of faith. Let us also give thought to those who have lost all hope. Let us revive hope within them. Let us bring them the message that things will not remain as they are! The day of the Lord will surely come! This will help them gain new hope.

I am also thinking of those who have lost their courage. Through our exemplary conduct and through prayers we can encourage those whose courage has been shaken. I am also thinking of those who are indifferent. Here I am talking about those who do not want to get too deeply involved in congregational life and who – for whatever reasons – find themselves on the margins of our fellowship. It must be our objective to find a way to reach their hearts, be it by being kind and friendly or showing genuine concern for their worries and cares. In all these things the following applies for us: the love of Christ is to be directly felt in us!

In this context, let me draw attention to the words of the Lord: “Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (cf. Matthew 5: 44-45). The Lord even underscores this expectation further by adding: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5: 46). This gives us – ministers and members alike – a special obligation: if we are already supposed to treat our enemies with love, how much more should we not take an interest in our brothers and sisters who have perhaps become estranged from the congregation or who have perhaps even adopted a dismissive attitude toward church?

At the time of the Lord, the Pharisees were a prominent group who strictly segregated themselves from sinners and tax-collectors. This thinking was partially rooted in the old covenant: the Pharisees were especially strict in their observance of the laws of the Old Testament, hoping to attract the favour of God. The Lord Jesus countered their way of thinking with the words: “Love your enemies!” This is a completely different approach: let us make a particular effort not to exclude those who are difficult and perhaps even dismiss us. Let us accept them and show them special love and care. Love for one’s enemies is a special sign of the love of Jesus, which even surpasses the love we are to have for our neighbour! Chief Apostle Fehr often made reference to this love of Jesus and summarised it as follows: “People always resist harshness, but love conquers all!”       

(From a divine service by the Chief Apostle)