Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and loveth God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast! If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

 

If any have laboured long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

 

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.

 

And He showeth mercy upon the last, and careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, and upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, and welcometh the intention, and honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

 

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

 

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

 

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

 

It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

 

O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?

 

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

 

To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.

Amen.

 

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The Sermon on the Mount

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Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5-7, taken from the Standard King James Bible:

 

Matthew Chapter 5: The Sermon on the Mount

 

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

 

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

 

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

 

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

 

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

 

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

 

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

 

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

 

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

 

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

 

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

 

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

 

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

 

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

 

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

 

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

 

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

 

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

 

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

 

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

 

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

 

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

 

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

 

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

 

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

 

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

 

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

 

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

 

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

 

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

 

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

 

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

 

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

 

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

 

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

 

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

 

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

Matthew Chapter 6

 

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

 

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

 

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

 

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

 

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

 

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

 

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

 

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

 

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

 

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

 

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

 

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

 

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

 

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

 

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

 

18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

 

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

 

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

 

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

 

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

 

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

 

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

 

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

 

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

 

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

 

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

 

32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

 

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 

Matthew Chapter 7

 

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

 

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

 

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

 

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

 

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

 

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

 

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

 

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

 

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

 

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

 

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

 

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

 

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at:

 

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

 

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

 

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

 

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

 

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

 

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

 

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

 

23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

 

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

 

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

 

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

 

28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

 

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

 

Arrogance: The Mother of Sin

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by Phillip Ruben Barea

 

All sins originate in our tendency for arrogance. Beginning with our expulsion from the Garden of Eden we have continuously traveled down the path of allowing arrogance to cloud our judgment and open the door to our propensity for sin. It is the belief, or rather an assumption, in our individual greatness that causes us to plunder our way towards damnation.

 

Somehow during this exercise in varying degrees of corruption and hypocrisy we feel that we are above or beyond the rule of God and the laws of life. We believe that our worldly status and selfish acquisition of property and power by any means will secure our souls, but how wrong we are…

 

Arrogance perpetuates the worst of our human condition. In our cosmic lowliness we think ourselves to be greater than we truly are. For example, in the Book of Job we read the story of a blessed and powerful man brought to his knees by his arrogance. God’s lesson is that the belief that our presumed greatness grants us an entitlement is fundamentally flawed.

 

The Bible is full of examples of arrogance causing people, even the greatest of people, to sin in the worst possible ways.  It becomes the primary cause of their woes. One famous example is when King David sent Uriah the Hittite to his death so that the king could take his wife Bathsheba.

 

Arrogance pushed David from an initial moment of desire into a sinister abuse of power that was later condemned by Nathan the Prophet, and severely punished by God. It would have become his complete undoing if it were not for his honest repentance and contrite humility before God. David was eventually forgiven and sinned no more.

 

Psalm 51:17 sings of David’s humble repentance for the evil he did to Uriah when it says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

 

Our spiritual ancestors continuously warned us about the dark power of arrogance and lovingly urged us to go in the opposite direction.

 

In the First Book of Samuel (2:3) Hannah advises: “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

 

Psalm 12:3-4 further warns us that: “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things; Who have said With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?”

 

Speaking to the faithful Isaiah 2:17 decrees that: “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Further on, Isaiah 13:11 confirms that: “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”

 

In Jeremiah 6:15 the lamentation reads: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; therefore they shall fall among them that fall; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.”

 

The struggle with arrogance and vain pursuit of greatness even plagued Jesus’ disciples. Luke 9:46-48 explains: “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him. And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth He that sent me; for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”

 

Saint Paul advises in Galatians 5:26: “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another”. He goes on to explain in Galatians 6:3-8 that: “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself…Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

 

If arrogance is the mother of sin then humility is the mother of goodness. We are not great unless we be servants to our fellow human beings and adhere to the example of Jesus Christ.

 

The Epistle of James clearly outlines the value of humility in 1:8-9 and 4:6. The former reads: “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.” The latter reads: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

 

In 1 Peter 5:5-7 we are equally taught: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.”

 

Humility causes us to be mindful and compassionate. In turn, these effects of humble thinking and behavior are the signature virtues of a good Christian; mindfulness because it keeps us honest and compassion because it motivates us to serve others.

 

In his epistle to the Romans Saint Paul provides the most direct and concise presentation of how to be a good Christian and a good person. In Chapter 12 he follows the path from mindfulness to compassion. Verse 2 sets the ball rolling by saying: “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

Romans 12:10-21 further explains that we should: “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another…Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another…Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

Recently, Pope Francis emphasized this need for humility and compassion in the Universal Church when he said: “Dear brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother Mary, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast…I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked…We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized!”

 

In a world plagued by war, extreme poverty, environmental degradation, crime and prejudice; we need to all look beyond ourselves (beyond our arrogance) so that we may each embrace humility, maintain mindfulness and practice compassion. This true Christian path is the only hope for humanity.

 

In his epistle to Titus, Saint Paul wrote in verses 11-14: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealots of good works.”

 

May the Lord bless you, keep you, guide you and protect you. May the Almighty shower his grace upon you and may you be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 

Amen

 

Compassion, Marginalization and Reinstatement

Homily by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals (February 2015)

 

“Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean”… Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:40-41). The compassion of Jesus! That compassion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need… for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show compassion, because he has a heart unashamed to have compassion.

 

“Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk 1:45). This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the Law of Moses (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46). Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full (cf. Is 53:4).

 

Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate.

 

Marginalization: Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, says that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declares them: “unclean!” (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).

 

Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (cf. Num 12:14).

 

In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.

 

The purpose for this rule was “to safeguard the healthy”, “to protect the righteous”, and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate “the peril” by treating the diseased person harshly. As the high priest Caiaphas decreed: “It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (Jn 11:50).

 

Reinstatement: Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the Law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17). He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man. He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the Law of Moses. Jesus also revolutionizes consciences in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5), opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s “logic”. The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God. For “God our Savior desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 12:7; Hos 6:6).

 

Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

 

Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).

 

There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.

 

These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic Law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was bitterly criticized by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius (cf. Acts 10).

 

The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those on the “outskirts” of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: “Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:31-32).

 

In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the “older brother” (cf. Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the laborers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt 20:1-16).

 

In a word: charity cannot be neutral, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! (cf. 1 Cor 13). Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Contact is the true language of communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that “he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word” (cf. Mk 1:45).

 

Dear new Cardinals, this is the “logic”, the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and to seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. “Whoever says: ‘I abide in [Christ]’, ought to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honor!

 

In this Eucharist which finds us gathered around the altar of the Lord, let us implore the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalization as a result of slander (cf. Jn 8:41) and exile (cf. Mt 2:13-23). May she obtain for us the grace to be God’s faithful servants. May she – our Mother – teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; to be unafraid of tenderness and compassion. May she clothe us in patience as we seek to accompany them on their journey, without seeking the benefits of worldly success. May she show us Jesus and help us to walk in his footsteps.

 

Dear brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother Mary, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians – edified by our witness – will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesiastical about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith; to see the Lord in he who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is found and revealed!

 

The Friend of Sinners

by Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

 

“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”

—Mark 2:15-16

 

We cannot wonder at the scribes and Pharisees asking this question. I think that we should most of us ask the same question now, if we saw the Lord Jesus, or even if we saw any very good or venerable man, going out of his way to eat and drink with publicans and sinners. We should be inclined to say, as the scribes and Pharisees no doubt said, Why go out of his way to make fellowship with them? To eat and drink with them?

 

He might have taught them, preached to them, and warned them of God’s wrath against their sins when he could find them out in the street. Or, even if he could not do that, if he could not find them all together without going into their house, why sit down and eat and drink? Why not say, No I am not going to join with you in that? I am come on a much more solemn and important errand than eating. I have no time to eat. I must preach to you, ere it be too late. And you would have no appetite to eat, if you knew the terrible danger in which your souls are.

 

Besides, however anxious for your souls I am, you cannot expect me to treat you as friends, to make companions of you, and accept your hospitality, while you are living these bad lives. I shall always feel pity and sorrow for you: but I cannot be a table companion with you, till you begin to lead very different lives.

 

Now if the scribes and Pharisees had said that, should we have thought them very unreasonable? For whatsoever kinds of sinners the sinners were, these publicans were the very worst and lowest of company. They were not innkeepers, as the word means now; they were a kind of tax-gatherers: but not like ours in England. For first, these taxes were not taken by the Jewish government but by the Romans, heathen foreigners who had conquered them, and kept them down by soldiery quartered in their country. So that these publicans, who gathered taxes and tribute for the heathen Csesar of Rome from their own countrymen, were traitors to their country, in league with their foreign tyrants, as it were, devouring their own flesh and blood; and all the Jews looked on them (and really no wonder) with hatred and contempt. Beside, these publicans did not merely gather the taxes, as they do in free England; they farmed them, compounded for them with the Roman emperor; that is, they had each to bring in to the Romans a stated sum of money, each out of his own district, and to make their own profit out of the bargain by grinding out of the poor Jews all they could over and above–and most probably calling in the soldiery to help them if people would not pay.

 

So this was a trade, as you may easily see, which could only prosper by all kinds of petty extortion, cruelty, and meanness; and, no doubt, these publicans were devourers of the poor, and as unjust and hard-hearted men as one could be. As for those ‘sinners’ who are so often mentioned with them, I suppose this is what the word means. These publicans making their money ill, spent it ill also, in a low profligate way, with the worst of women and of men.

 

Moreover, all the other Jews shunned them, and would not eat or keep company with them; so they hung all together, and made company for themselves with bad people, who were fallen too low to be ashamed of them. The publicans and harlots are often mentioned together; and, I doubt not, they were often eating and drinking together, God help them!

 

And God did help them. The Son of God came and ate and drank with them. No doubt, he heard many words among them which pained his ears, saw many faces which shocked his eyes; faces of women who had lost all shame—faces of men hardened by cruelty, and greediness, and cunning, till God’s image had been changed into the likeness of the fox and the serpent; and, worst of all, the greatest pain to him of all, he could see into their hearts, their immortal souls, and see all the foulness within them, all the meanness, all the hardness, all the unbelief in anything good or true. And yet he ate and drank with them. Make merry with them he could not: who could be merry in such company?

 

But he certainly so behaved to them that they were glad to have him among them, though he was so unlike them in thought, and word, and look, and action. And why? Because, though he was so unlike them in many things, he was like them at least in one thing. If he could do nothing else in common with them, he could at least eat and drink as they did, and eat and drink with them too. Yes. He was the Son of man, the man of all men, and what he wanted to make them understand was that fallen as low as they were, they were men and women still, who were made at first in God’s likeness, and who could be redeemed back into God’s likeness again.

 

The only way to do that was to begin with them in the very simplest way; to meet them on common human ground; to make them feel that simply because they were men and women he felt for them; that simply because they were men and women he loved them; that simply because they were men and women he could not turn his back upon them for the sake of his Father and their Father in heaven.

 

If he had left those poor wretches to themselves; if he had even merely kept apart from their common every-day life, and preached to them, they would never have felt that there was still hope for them, simply because they were men and women. They would have said in their hearts:

 

“See; he will talk to us; but he looks down on us all the time. We are fallen so low, we cannot rise; we cannot mend. What is there in us that can mend? We are nothing but brutes, perhaps; then brutes we must remain. Heaven is for people like him, perhaps; but not for such as us. We are cut off from men. We have no brothers upon earth, no Father in heaven. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

 

Yes; they would have said this, for people like them will say it too often now, here in Christian England.

 

But when our Lord came to them, ate and drank with them, talked with them in a homely and simple way (for our Lord’s words are always simple and homely, grand and deep and wonderful as they are), then do you not see how self-respect would begin to rise in those poor sinners’ hearts? Not that they would say, “We are better men than we thought we were”. No; perhaps his kindness would make them all the more ashamed of themselves, and convince them of sin all the more deeply; for nothing, nothing melts the sinner’s hard, proud heart, like a few unexpected words of kindness ay, even a cordial shake of the hand from anyone who he fancies looks down on him.

 

To find a loving brother where he expected only a threatening schoolmaster, that breaks the sinner’s heart; and most of all when he finds that brother in Jesus his Saviour. That the sight of God’s boundless love to sinners, as it is revealed in the loving face of Jesus Christ our Lord that, and that alone, breeds in the sinner the broken and the contrite heart which is in the sight of God of great price. And so, those publicans and sinners would not have begun to say “We are better than we thought”, but:

 

“We can become better than we thought. He must see something in us which makes him care for us. Perhaps God may see something in us to care for. He does not turn his back on us. Perhaps God may not. He must have some hope of us. May we not have hope of ourselves? Surely there is a chance for us yet. Oh! if there were! We are miserable now in the midst of our drunkenness, and our covetousness, and our riotous pleasures. We are ashamed of ourselves: and our countrymen are ashamed of us: and though we try to brazen it off by impudence, we carry heavy hearts under bold foreheads. Oh, that we could be different! Oh, that we could be even like what we were when we were little children! Perhaps we may be yet. For he treats us as if we were men and women still, his brothers and sisters still. He thinks that we are not quite brute animals yet, it seems. Perhaps we are not; perhaps there is life in us yet, which may grow up to a new and better way of living. What shall we do to be saved?”

 

Blessed charity, bond of peace and of all virtues; of brotherhood and fellow-feeling between man and man, as children of one common Father. Ay, bond of all virtues of generosity and of justice, of counsel and of understanding. Charity, unknown on earth before the coming of the Son of man, who was content to be called gluttonous and a wine-bibber, because he was the friend of publicans and sinners!

 

My friends, let us try to follow his steps; let us remember all day long what it is to be men; that it is to have every one whom we meet for our brother in the sight of God; that it is this, never to meet any one, however bad he may be, for whom we cannot say: “Christ died, for that man, and Christ cares for him still. He is precious in God’s eyes; he shall be precious in mine also”.

 

Let us take the counsel of the Gospel for this day, and love one another, not in word merely in doctrine, but in deed and in truth, really and actually; in our every-day lives and behaviour, words and looks. In all of them let us be cordial, feeling, pitiful, patient and courteous. Masters with your workmen, teachers with your pupils, parents with your children; be cordial, and kind, and patient. Respect every one, whether below you or not in the world’s eyes.

 

Never do a thing to any human being which may lessen his self-respect; which may make him think that you look down upon him, and so make him look down upon himself in awkwardness and shyness; or else may make him start off from you, angry and proud, saying:

 

“I am as good as you; and if you keep apart from me, I will from you; if you can do without me, I can do without you. I want none of your condescension.”

 

It is not so. You cannot do without each other. We can none of us do without the other; do not let us make anyone fancy that he can, and tempt him to wrap himself up in pride and surliness, cutting himself off from the communion of saints, and the blessing of being a man among men.

 

And if any of you have a neighbor or a relation fallen into sin, even into utter shame; oh, for the sake of Him who ate and drank with publicans and sinners, never cast them off, never trample on them, never turn your back upon them. They are miserable enough already, doubt it not. Do not add one drop to their cup of bitterness. They are ashamed of themselves already, doubt it not. Do not you destroy in them what small grain of self-respect still remains.

 

You fancy they are not so. They seem to you brazen-faced, proud, impenitent. So did the publicans and harlots seem to those proud blind Pharisees. Those pompous self-righteous fools did not know what terrible struggles were going on in those poor sin-tormented hearts. Their pride had blinded them, while they were saying all along “It is we alone who see. This people, which knoweth not the law, is accursed.” Then came the Lord Jesus, the Son of man, who knew what was in man; and he spoke to them gently, cordially, humanly; and they heard him, and justified God, and were baptized, confessing their sins ; and so, as he said himself, the publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of God before those proud, self-conceited Pharisees.

 

Therefore, I say, never hurt anyone’s self-respect. Never trample on any soul, though it may be lying in the veriest mire; for that last spark of self-respect is as its only hope, its only chance; the last seed of a new and better life; the voice of God which still whispers to it, “You are not what you ought to be, and you are not what you can be. You are still God’s child, still an immortal soul: you may rise yet, and fight a good fight yet, and conquer yet, and be a man once more, after the likeness of God who made you, and Christ who died for you!”

 

Oh, why crush that voice in any heart? If you do, the poor creature is lost, and lies where he or she falls, and never tries to rise again. Rather bear and forbear; hope all things, believe all things, endure all things; so you will, as St. John tells you in the Epistle, know that you are of the truth, in the true and right road, and will assure your hearts before God. For this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and believe really that he is now what he always was, the friend of publicans and sinners, and love one another as he gave us commandment.

 

That was Christ’s spirit; the fairest, the noblest spirit upon earth; the spirit of God whose mercy is over all his works; and hereby shall we know that Christ abideth in us, by his having given us the same spirit of pity, charity, fellow-feeling and love for every human being round us.

 

And now, I will also give you one lesson to carry home with you, a lesson which if we all could really believe and obey, the world would begin to mend from tomorrow, and every other good work on earth would prosper and multiply tenfold, a hundredfold ay, beyond all our fairest dreams. And my lesson is this: When you go out from this church into those crowded streets, remember that there is not a soul in them who is not as precious in God’s eyes as you are; not a little dirty ragged child whom Jesus, were he again on earth, would not take up in his arms and bless ; not a publican or a harlot with whom, if they but asked him, he would not eat and drink now, here, in London on this Sunday, the 8th of June, 1856, as certainly as he did in Jewry beyond the seas, eighteen hundred years ago.

 

Therefore do to all who are in want of your help as Jesus would do to them if he were here; as Jesus is doing to them already: for he is here among us now, and forever seeking and saving that which was lost; and all we have to do is to believe that, and work on, sure that he is working at our head, and that though we cannot see him, he sees us; and then all will prosper at last, for this brave old earth whereon we are living now, and for that far braver new heaven and new earth whereon we shall live hereafter.

 

Greatness, Humility, Servanthood

by John Piper

Scripture: Mark 10:32-45

Topic: Pride & Humility

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Gospel Humility

 

This message is a message about the humility that defines a person who is transformed by the gospel of Jesus. It’s about gospel humility.

 

The reason I am talking about it is that I want to be humble and to see the church marked by humility. As a church, we are human, we are large, we are widely known, and we are sinners. That’s a very dangerous mix. It has almost all the ingredients that go into the recipe of pride.

 

Humility That God Sees

 

I know that the best and humblest person who has walked the earth was tortured to death because he was accused of blasphemous arrogance. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him because . . . he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). So I don’t expect his followers will ever be able to avoid the accusation of arrogance. If you are the humblest outspoken witness for Jesus as the only way to God, you will be accused of arrogance.

 

So avoiding that is not my aim in this message. What I want to avoid is the reality of pride. I want there to be real humility in me, and in the church—the kind of humility that God sees and that spiritually discerning people see, even if the world doesn’t see it.

 

Getting a Sense of What Humility Is

 

So what I would like to do first is not start with a definition of humility but with six passages of Scripture and a brief comment about each. I think what will come out of these texts is a sense of what humility is. Then I will draw out some implications for us. And close with the question why this is so important and try to answer some objections that the world has to humility.

 

Six texts that open us up to what God means by humility:

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:26–31

 

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 

My point here is that humility agrees and is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us and calling us according to his purposes, not our merit. And he does this (v. 29) “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God,” but that (v. 31) the one who boasts might boast in the Lord. Humility agrees and is glad that God acts in a way to take the focus of all boasting away from man and put it on himself. Are you happy about that? Are you glad God does it that way? Humility is glad about that.

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 4:6–7

 

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

 

Humility agrees and is glad that everything we have is a free gift of God, and that this severs the root of boasting in our distinctives. Whatever talents, whatever intelligence, whatever skills, whatever gifts, whatever looks, whatever pedigree, whatever possessions, whatever wit, whatever influence you have, put away all pride because it is a gift, and put away all despair because it is a gift from God.

 

  1. James 4:13–17

 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

Humility agrees and is glad that God governs the beating of our hearts and our safe arrival at every destination. If we get there, God got us there. And if we don’t get there, God willed that we not get there. Humility gets down under this sovereign providence and nestles there gladly.

 

  1. Colossians 3:12–13

 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

 

One of the implications of this text is that our humble willingness to forgive others their offenses is rooted in God’s forgiveness of us through Jesus. In other words, Christian humility is rooted in the gospel. True humility is gospel humility. It is not just copying Jesus in his willingness to die for others; it is enabled by Jesus because he died for us. Humility is rooted in the gospel.

 

  1. Philippians 2:3–8

 

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

Humility serves. Humility gets down low and lifts others up. Humility looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those needs. Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to the point of death. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Humility measures everything it does by whether it serves the good of other people. Am I feeding my ego or am I feeding the faith of others? Humility serves.

 

  1. Mark 10:42–44

 

Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

 

Humility agrees and is glad that this servanthood is true greatness. Verses 43–44: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

 

In Sum

 

Humility is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us so that we boast only in him and not man.

 

Humility happily admits that everything we have is a free gift from God, so that we can’t boast in it.

 

Humility is glad to affirm that God sovereignly governs our heartbeats and safe arrivals, or non-arrivals.

 

The root of Christian humility is the gospel that Christ died for our sins. That’s how sinful I was. That’s how dependent I am.

 

Humility gives itself away in serving everyone, rather than seeking to be served.

 

And humility is glad to affirm that this service is true greatness.

 

If God would work this humility in us—O how freely we would serve each other. One of the reasons I am praying and preaching toward humility is that the church survives and thrives by servanthood. Every member of Christ is gifted in some way to serve. In a church of millions, the army of servant-volunteers that make ministry possible is millions of people.

 

The All-Pervasive Effects of Humility

 

My point here is that without humility we won’t serve, or we will serve for the wrong reasons. It seems almost impossible to overstate how pervasive are the effects of humility in our lives.

 

Listen to the way John Calvin describes the importance of humility:

 

I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, “The foundation of our philosophy is humility;” and still more with those of Augustine, “As the orator, when asked, what is the first precept in eloquence? Answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What is the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility.” (Institutes 2.2.11)

 

Why is that? Why is humility so pervasive as to be the first, second, and third precept of Christianity? It is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible.

 

For example:

 

Faith: Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn’t made him humble?

 

Worship: Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

 

Obedience: Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?

 

Love: Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

 

And on and on it goes. Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That’s why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. And he could have said fourth, fifth, sixth, and more. It is pervasively effective.

 

Answering the World’s Objections

 

So in closing (and to give you a fuller flavor of what the humble life is like) let me try to answer briefly a few objections that the world may have to this emphasis on humility.

 

Objection 1: Humility makes a person gloomy, dismal, downcast, and unhappy

 

Answer: No, gospel humility frees you from the need to posture and pose and calculate what others think, so that you are free to laugh at what is really funny with the biggest belly laugh. Proud people don’t really let themselves go in laughter. They don’t get red in the face and fall off chairs and twist their faces into the contortions of real free laughter. Proud people need to keep their dignity. The humble are free to howl with laughter.

 

Objection 2: Humility makes you fearful and timid

 

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because they think the best source of courage is self-confidence. It’s not. God-confidence is the best source of courage. And only humble people lean on God for confidence. “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker” (Isaiah 51:12–13). In other words, fear of man is a sign of pride, not gospel humility.

 

Objection 3: Humility makes you passive and removes the driving motor of achievement

 

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because for them the driving motor of achievement is feeding the ego with accomplishments. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

 

The power of God’s grace in the heart of the humble believer who depends utterly on God produces incredible energy and industry. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

 

The Paradox

 

The legacy of Christian thought in the Western world is one of absolute dependence on the sovereign grace of God and, because of that, the unleashing of a tidal wave of energy and creativity and industry and profoundly meaningful, culture-shaping labor to the glory of God.

 

Call it a paradox, if you wish, but it is biblical and historical. Deep, humble dependence on the sovereign grace of God has produced world-changing achievements. Thousands have said with the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:29, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” This is not ego-exalting pride; this is Jesus-exalting faith.

 

Joy, Courage, and Industry

 

So the answer is no. Gospel humility, grace-based humility, Jesus-exalting humility does not make you gloomy, or timid, or passive. It makes you joyful, and courageous and industrious.

 

It makes you a servant—like Jesus. Only God can do it. And he does it through Jesus in the gospel. May he work this in us and unleash a tidal wave of service in our church and in the world. Amen.

 

Let Love Be Genuine

by John Piper

Scripture: Romans 12:9

 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

 

Let’s begin with some biblical thoughts about how to read the Bible in a way that changes us deeply. Especially, how are we supposed to read passages like this that have piles of short exhortations? The five verses from Romans 12:9 to 12:13 contain 13 exhortations:

 

1) Let love be genuine. 2) Abhor what is evil; 3) hold fast to what is good. 4) Love one another with brotherly affection. 5) Outdo one another in showing honor. 6) Do not be slothful in zeal, 7) be fervent in spirit, 8) serve the Lord. 9) Rejoice in hope, 10) be patient in tribulation, 11) be constant in prayer. 12) Contribute to the needs of the saints and 13) seek to show hospitality.

 

Suppose you get up in the morning and have set yourself to read several chapters of the Bible before you enter the day. And suppose that one of them is Romans 12. So you read through the chapter. Now what do you remember from those 13 exhortations? What will you remember in two hours? And what effect did they have? After three minutes reading this chapter, how are you changed in your love, and hate, and brotherly affection, and honoring others, and zeal, and fervency, and service, and hope, and joy, and patience, and prayer, and generosity, and hospitality? Did mentioning these 13 exhortations in your mind for a total of about 15 seconds transform your heart and mind so that all 13 of them are fired up and growing? Surely that’s why this was written.

 

But it doesn’t usually work that way. Reading over texts like this once, and quickly, has little effect to produce all these beautiful things in our lives. So what are we to do? What would make these things happen?

 

Paul’s Goal for Us from Romans 15

 

Paul gives us guidance in chapter 15. In Romans 15:15-16 he says . . . (keep in mind he is writing mainly to Gentiles, that is, non-Jews in Rome and he is explaining how his ministry of writing this letter helps him accomplish his aim of transforming Gentile sinners into a worship gift to God):

 

“On some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

 

Notice several things:

 

His aim is that the Gentiles be an “acceptable offering” (v. 16)—just like he said in Romans 12:2 that we prove what is good and “acceptable”: the will of God.

 

His means of preparing the Gentiles—us—for God as acceptable living sacrifices of worship (Romans 12:1) is to write to us and remind us boldly of things we may already know (15:15).

 

But the writing alone does not produce the holiness and the newness and the love that Paul is aiming at in us, so he says at the end of verse 16, “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

 

So now we know Paul’s goal for us when we read Romans 12. He writes to us boldly to remind of some things that we already know with the aim that we be transformed in our hearts and minds and begin to embrace the acceptable will of God, and that this all happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. Neither can be excluded from Paul’s strategy: the word and the Spirit. Not the word without the Spirit, and not the Spirit without the word. The 13 exhortations of Romans 12:9-13 are written so that the Holy Spirit may take them and make them the means of his transforming, sanctifying work.

 

Implications for How We Read Romans 12

 

The implication this has for how we read Romans 12 is threefold (at least).

 

It means we will pray as we read. We will ask God to pour out his Holy Spirit to make the Word effective in our lives. We will admit our need for him and be conscious that mere reading will not produce godly lives. We will depend on his work in us to make the word produce what it commands. We will say with St. Augustine: Command what you will and grant what you command. We will pray.

 

We will consciously look to Jesus Christ as the one who died for us and rose again so that we could be forgiven for all our failures to live this way, and have any hope that God would look with favor on us to help us. We also look to him as the one who lived perfectly like this as our perfect example. And we look to him as the one we hope to glorify by living this way.

 

The reason we look to Christ as the foundation and model and goal of the Romans 12 way of living is that the Holy Spirit is sent into the world to glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:14). If we try to live like this for our glory—even with the help of the Holy Spirit—it will not work. The Holy Spirit is not sent to give us glory, but to give Christ glory. So we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, and we look away from ourselves to Christ for the purchase and the example and the goal of this new way of living. When we look to Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us to live the Romans 12 way.

 

We meditate on these exhortations and do not breeze over them. We linger over them. We ask what they mean, and we think about that in relation to the other Scriptures. We ask what difference these exhortations would make in our lives, and we think about practical situations where they affect us. We slow down. We don’t just fly at 560 miles an hour in our 747 36,000 miles above the grove of fruit trees and look down and say, “My, what an impressive grove of fruit trees.” Instead, we land the plane and walk through the grove of trees and stop here and there and pick the fruit and eat it and savor the beauty and the sweetness of this grove. In other words, we meditate on these words. We don’t rush over them.

 

All of that I think is implied in Romans 15:15-16. So that is what we want to do now. We will begin our walk through the grove of trees. We will pray earnestly as we go that God will transform us by what we see and what we eat. We will look away from ourselves in a kind of self-forgetfulness that focuses on Jesus Christ as the one who died for us that we might live this way (Titus 2:14), and who satisfies us with all that he is and promises. And we will linger over these words rather than rushing through them.

 

The First Exhortation: Let Love Be Genuine

 

So our focus first is on the first exhortation in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine.” Literally: “Let love be without hypocrisy.” In a sense we begin a new section here at verse 9, and in a sense we don’t.

 

We do in this sense. Verses 4-8 have been about the use of our spiritual gifts, and now Paul turns from the focus on gifts to the focus on the more general way of love in the church. This is just what he did in 1 Corinthians 12-13. Recall that 1 Corinthians 12 is all about spiritual gifts. But then Paul says at the end of chapter 12 in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” So Paul moves from spiritual gifts to the more general and more excellent way of love. He does that in 1 Corinthians, and he does it here.

 

But in another sense this is not a new section, because Paul is still unfolding what it means to have a transformed mind from verse 2 and what it looks like when we are not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought but are thinking highly of Christ with the measure of faith that we have as verse 3 says.

 

In fact, I am not sure Paul felt that there should be any pause at all between the list in verses 6-8 and exhortation for love in verse 9. Remember, Paul was saying in verse 8 that contributing should be generous, and leadership should be zealous, and mercy should be cheerful. And now he simply adds, Love should be without hypocrisy.

 

Think of it. Of all the things he could have said that love should be (Let love be great, earnest, joyful, constant, bold, etc.) he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Why is that even on his mind? I think it’s on his mind because it is the dead opposite of verse 3. Verse 3 says not to think of ourselves too highly, but to think with faith, that is, to think with our minds and hearts looking away to Christ for our peace and satisfaction. Verse 3 is about a wonderful self-forgetfulness in the service of Christ. And the exact opposite of that is hypocrisy, because the hypocrite is totally concerned with himself. How will I appear? is his driving question. How can I create a good impression of me? is the consuming desire.

 

So Paul has not left his theme. By the mercies of God in Christ he is working for transformed minds that are not conformed to this age but are renewed, and that means first and foremost do not make much of themselves but make much of Christ. There is a lifestyle that shows the worth of Christ-exaltation over the worth of self-exaltation. That is what he is after. And now he is calling for it generally in love. Let love be without hypocrisy.

 

So let’s linger here and meditate on what hypocrisy is and why people do it, and what love would look like without it.

 

Two Manifestations of Hypocrisy

 

What is it? Hypocrisy shows itself in two ways. One is that it tries to make the outside look better than the inside. We put forward what looks like a loving behavior that does not really signify what we feel inside—just as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” So you can do some remarkable external acts of sacrifice and not have love.

 

The classic statement of this form of hypocrisy is Matthew 15:7 where Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” External lip-praise was not accompanied by internal heart-praise. Jesus called this hypocrisy.

 

Few things brought down his wrath like hypocrisy. For example, in Matthew 23:25, 27 he said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. . . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”

 

So the first way that hypocrisy shows itself is when we hide internal sin by putting up a moral, external front.

 

Here’s the other way that hypocrisy shows itself. We hide our own flaws (sometimes even from ourselves) by drawing attention to other people’s flaws so that ours don’t show up so clearly. This I would suggest is found most frequently in marriage troubles. But not only there; for example, in Luke 6:42 Jesus said, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

 

So Paul is saying: real love doesn’t act this way. Let love be without hypocrisy. It isn’t love if it is hypocrisy. He said in 1 Corinthians 13:6 that love “rejoices with the truth.” But hypocrisy is all about falsehood, concealment, and deceit, cloaking, misleading, and hiding. Hypocrisy is the opposite of loving the truth. So it is the opposite of love. So, Paul says, Let love be without hypocrisy. Let it be genuine.

 

Two Aims of Hypocrisy

 

So we have seen two ways hypocrisy shows itself. Now ponder where this evil comes from. What is going on? Why do people do this? Why do we do it? There are at least two aims of hypocrisy that I see in the New Testament.

 

First, there is the aim to get and keep the praise and approval of other people. Hypocrisy is driven by the craving for other people to make much of us. For example, in Matthew 6:2 Jesus said, “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” And in verse 5 he says, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

 

In other words, they craved the reward of men’s approval and praise. They got it, and that is all they got. Love is not like that, Paul says. It is not hypocritical. It does not crave the praise of men. It is has been set free from that bondage. In fact, that is close to the essence of love: It doesn’t think highly of itself—it doesn’t think much about itself at all. It is riveted on Christ and all that God is for us in him. The command to love without hypocrisy is really a command to know Christ and love Christ and find your satisfaction in Christ so that you do not crave the praise of men any more.

 

But there is another evil that hypocrisy sometimes aims at. Most commonly we think of hypocrisy aiming at the praise of others. So there is a kind of posturing and posing. But there is a more subtle aim, namely, to cover sins that may have nothing to do with how we are posturing and posing.

 

For example, in Luke 13 Jesus heals a woman who had been bent over for 18 years. It was the Sabbath. So the ruler of the synagogue was angry and said, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord Jesus answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?” (v. 14-15).

 

Jesus called this man’s zeal for the Sabbath hypocrisy. Why? It wasn’t so much that he was seeking the praise of men. He was a hypocrite because his religious zeal was hiding something. What was this man concealing? “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey . . . and lead it away to water it?” Bottom line: money! (See Luke 16:14). You don’t give a rip about this woman! But you care about your ox and your donkey! Your zeal for the Lord’s Day is sheer hypocrisy.

 

Liberal Hypocrites and Fundamentalist Hypocrites

 

Oh, Bethlehem, beware of making our religion a cloak for worldliness! There are liberals who do this—talking endlessly about the poor and about peace and about the environment—and sleeping around on the weekend. And there are fundamentalists and evangelicals who do this—talking endlessly about the cesspool of modern culture and the godlessness of secular humanism—and hiding away in their safe suburban (or urban) homes, with their surround sound entertainment centers, driving their $25,000 cars, and not lifting a finger for the poor, or the catastrophic needs of the world.

 

It cuts both ways. You can be a liberal hypocrite, and you can be fundamentalist hypocrite. But love is not that way. Love doesn’t put up artificial fronts. Love does not dwell on the flaws of others. Love does not crave the praise of men. And love does not act religious to hide sin.

 

Love forgets itself and looks to Christ and overflows with joy in him to meet the needs of others. So let us look to Christ for everything we need.