Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday I spoke with you about the issue that God has not called all believers to leave their families and businesses, or to avoid marriage, to preach the Word in all parts of the world. God has called most to show God's love in their lives where they have been planted.
Today we are going to talk about the impact of the gospel in the life of each believer. God's love must change your life. But in what way? If we don't have to leave our families and our community, if we are justified by faith, apart from good works, how does the gospel change our lives?
The first clue is in our reading of the Old Testament (Ruth 1: 1-18). “And it happened in the days that the judges ruled, that there was hunger in the land. And a man from Bethlehem of Judah went on a pilgrimage to the fields of Moab, he and his wife, and their two sons. ”
Where did that man come from? From Bethlehem, the hometown of Jesus Christ, also of King David. And all this first chapter of Ruth is a tragedy. First, there was hunger in the land of Judah. Like today in Venezuela, this family sought their fortune in another country. Moab was a country next to Judah, as Colombia is next to Venezuela. But, to leave his home was only the beginning of the tears of Naomi, Elimilec's wife. Elimilec died, then also the two sons, Mahalón and Quillión. The sons had married women from Moab, Orpha and Ruth, but left them without their own children.
“Thus was left the helpless woman without her two children and her husband. Then she arose with his daughters-in-law, to return from the fields of Moab, because she heard in the fields of Moab that Jehovah had visited his people to give them bread. So she left the place where she had been, and with her, her two daughters-in-law, and they began to walk back to the land of Judah.”
Orpha and Ruth both wanted to go with Naomi. “And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law: Go, let each one return to her mother's house: may Jehovah show you mercy, for you have done with the dead and with me. May Jehovah grant you to find rest, each one in her husband's house; she kissed them then, and they raised their voices and cried. And they said to her: We will certainly return to your people with you. And Naomi answered: Turn back, my daughters: Why should you go with me? Do I have more children in the womb that can be your husbands? Go back, my daughters, and be gone; for I am already old to have a husband. And even if I said: Hope I have; and tonight was with a husband, and might still give birth to children; Would you wait for them until they were grown? Were you saty unmarried for their love? No, my daughters; I have more bitterness than you, for the hand of Jehovah has come out against me. But they raised their voices again, and cried; and Orpha kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth stayed with her. And Naomi said: Behold your sister-in-law has turned to her people and their gods; you should go after her. And Ruth answered: Do not beg me to leave you, and to separate me from you; because wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; so may Jehovah make me, and even add me, that only death will make separation between you and me. ”
To walk with Naomi was not only to leave their homes for another country, but also to trust in a God apart from the gods of Moab. Because it was not a guarantee of other husbands and children for them. Orpha decided to return home, but Ruth chose to continue with Naomi.
This is only the first chapter. The rest of Ruth's book is like a soap opera or romance. The two women traveled to Bethlehem. Without work, Ruth began to pick up ears of grain from the field, because the law said that the poor can pick up the ears that the workers did not reap in their passage over the field. The owner of the camp, Boaz, noticed Ruth and asked his workers, who is she? He sent the workers to leave more ears in their path. Then he invited her to eat and drink with his workers. Naomi saw the amount of ears in Ruth's hands, and when Ruth told her the story, Naomi told her mother-in-law that she should approach Boaz. Finally Boaz and Ruth got married.
However, this was not the whole story. Because Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth, was the father of Jesse, the father of King David. This is part of the importance of this story of ordinary people, without battles or miracles. In addition, Ruth was a foreigner, not a descendant of Abraham, but she was an ancestor of Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham.
In the Old Testament there are many warnings to the Israelites against marriage to foreigners. In those cases, foreigners did not want to abandon their gods, but wanted to bring the worship of their gods to the Promised Land. Ruth, on the other hand, said to Naomi, your God will be my God.
The difference is the commitment to true God. And Ruth knew the love of true God in the person of his mother-in-law, Naomi. Then, Ruth left her home and her country, but what was more important was the change inside her heart. To know God's love is to change his priorities, and this change inside bears fruit in life.
Now, in our gospel (Matthew 5: 20-26), our Lord says thus: "For I tell you that if your righteousness is not greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Everyone thought of the scribes and Pharisees as religious and pious men, especially the same. But their good deeds did not arise from a contrite and humble heart, but from the desire for the admiration of the crowd. They thought that they have fulfilled the Law of God, because in their outward acts, they have not killed.
But, the Lord said to them, "You heard that it was said by the ancients: You shall not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be exposed to judgment. But I tell you that whoever without reason shall be angry with his brother shall be in danger of judgment; and anyone who says to his brother: Raca, will be in danger of the council; and anyone who says to him: Fool, will be exposed to the hell of fire. "
External actions have their origin in the mind and heart. From within come homicide, adultery and greed. If there is no change inside, these desires persist. If you have not killed anyone just because of the threat of jail, you are not innocent.
In our Lutheran theology, we speak of justice coram Deus, which in Latin means before God, and justice coram mundo, or before the world. A man can be right in front of the world, because he has not done evil deeds outwardly, but is not right before God because of the desires of the heart. None of us can be righteous before God. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, who suffered the wrath of God in our places.
Through Jesus Christ, we are holy in the eyes of God. We are free from the condemnation of our sins in thought, word and deed. But, St. Paul asks in Romans 6: 1-11, “What shall we say then? Will we persevere in sin so that grace abounds? ”And the answer,“ In no way! Because those of us who are dead to sin, how will we still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been baptized at his death? Because we are buried with Him in death by baptism; so that as Christ rose from the dead for the glory of the Father, so we walk in the novelty of life. ”
In these verses, Paul answers two errors. First, the mistake of thinking that we can live in what way we want, because in the end, God will forgive us. No one can make fun of God; He knows he has a contrite heart or not. Besides, nobody knows the time of death; in that hour, the time of grace will end for the time of judgment.
But, others, like the Roman Catholic church, say there is no justification without works of penance. We are free from eternal death by baptism in Christ, but before entering eternal life, we must do penance for the current sins we do after baptism. And if we cannot fulfill penance in this life, we must do it in purgatory. Suffering in purgatory is not forever, so if you want to give something to get an indulgence, your time in purgatory can be cut. The root of this error is to think if we are justified by faith alone, there is no reason to live fairly and godly.
But, if there is the reason to change life, says Pablo. We are dead to sin in baptism. In baptism the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith and from now on acts in our lives to lead us to eternal life. This motive does not come from our hearts, nor does it depend on our works, but the works of love are the fruit of the change within the Holy Spirit.
In this we have all the joy, hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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