Your Neighbor as Yourself
Reading the Word with Luther
Scripture Text: Romans 15:4–7
Series: Reading the Word with Luther
5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15:4–7, RSV
There are two reasons why we should receive one another. The first is because of Christ’s example. The Scriptures present Christ to us as one upon whom fell the infamy of our sins—for us he was ignominious in God’s sight—and who did not despise, reject nor revile us, but received us, that he might redeem us from our sins. We are, then, under particular obligation to receive one another. The other reason the apostle presents for our receiving one another is that thus we contribute to the praise and honor of God. This we learn from Christ. He everywhere testifies that all he does is in obedience to his Father’s will, and that he came for no other purpose than to do the will of God. It is certain, then, that he bore the ignominy of our sins simply because it was his Father’s will.
Mark the exceeding mercy of the Father’s controlling will in placing upon his beloved Son our sins, and permitting him to bear the shame of them, merely that we might escape condemnation. A true recognition of this, God’s gracious will, must evoke sincere love and praise to him and gratitude for his mercy. Christ has in himself upheld the honor of God by receiving us and bearing our sins. So should we likewise take upon ourselves the burdens, the sins and imperfections of our neighbors, and bear with them and help reform them.
When such Christian conduct is manifest before sinners and the spiritually weak, their hearts are attracted to God and forced to exclaim: Truly, he must be a great and gracious God, a righteous Father, whose people these are; for he desires them not to judge, condemn nor reject us poor, sinful and imperfect ones, but rather to receive us, to give us aid and to treat us as if our sins and imperfections were their own. Should we not love and exalt such a God? Should we not praise and honor him and give him the implicit confidence of our hearts in all things? This is the praise God would have from us, that we receive and regard our neighbor’s condition as our own. Such conduct on our part will encourage others to believe and will strengthen the faith of believers.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 404–05.
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