Updated: Apr 30, 2022
I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems to me that the world has lost its mind.
Why are we often our own worst enemies?
Why are humans so self-destructive?
In the LCMS, we pride ourselves on keeping Christ crucified, and the forgiveness of sins, front and center of all that we teach, believe, and confess. I am glad that the cross alone is our theology.
But today I want to branch out a little. I want to write about something that has been on my mind now for some time. In a world gone mad, we have more good news to share. We can show our neighbors that there is a better way to live.
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone."
Let's consider for a moment what the apostle Paul had to say in his letter to Titus.
He pointed out that, at one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. Paul's words hit home for me. We find ourselves in a society that is foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved. While we can thank God that, in his kindness he saved us from the life of misery that is the way of the world, we fool ourselves if we think that we are immune to the seductive call of ungodly passions and pleasures.
Paul described the way that the world worked in his day. It was an era marked by malice, envy, and outright hatred. This sure sounds like our day and age, doesn't it? What is even worse, many Christians are filled with malice, envy, and hatred. And they try to somehow justify their behavior in person or on social media
Such is the sad state of affairs in our world today.
We need an accurate diagnosis if there is to be any hope of recovery from what ails us.
More to say
Paul has more to say about this in his letter to the Romans:
"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”
Once again, what Paul wrote about society in his day and age is also true of our own.
Would you agree with me?
Paul and the other New Testament writers didn't bemoan the state of the world. They didn't just long for the return of Christ to make all things new. They didn't hunker down, shutting out the world as much as possible. They dared to declare that there is a better way for us to live, here and now.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
Paul wrote about the most excellent way in his first epistle to the Corinthians. We need to be reminded of this Way. We need this reminder both for our own sakes, and for the sake of our neighbors:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
More on the most excellent way
It's not just Paul who pointed to a better way to live. In an almost each and every one of the epistles, we see mention of the most excellent way.
Here are a but a few examples:
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."
Meanwhile, Peter wrote:
"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit."
"The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."
More on the Way
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister."
As much as our world needs to hear of the free and complete forgiveness of sins that is found in Christ, the Church has more good news to share. In a world gone mad, we can show our neighbors the better way, the most excellent way that is life, here and now, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In this scary time we live in, let us pray
Let us live the most excellent way, the Way of Jesus the Christ.