Love One Another
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Primum non nocere. That’s the Latin translation of the familiar “first, do no harm,” attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. Although it isn’t actually part of the Hippocratic oath that many physicians have historically taken, it is good, if difficult, advice. For instance, when a patient’s symptoms clearly point to a treatable cause, a doctor can easily proceed with treatment. No harm done. But if symptoms are unclear, the physician might have to do some detective work, which could end up aggravating the patient’s condition, causing harm. And what about surgery? Isn’t that inflicting harm on the patient, even if the objective is to heal? Still, aiming to do no harm while helping a patient is more than just a nice sentiment: it’s a worthy goal.
In his letter to Christ followers living in Rome, Paul wrote, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” In the same paragraph he wrote, echoing Jesus, that the Law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments—don’t commit adultery, murder, steal, covet, and so on—can be summed up in one command: love your neighbor as yourself. If we love our neighbor, we want only good for them. We go out of our way to treat them kindly, to help them out, to overlook the petty annoyances they might subject us to. We hope they do the same for us, but we are only in control of our own actions, so we aspire to love them even if they don’t return our love. As far as it is in our control, we do them no harm.
This kind of love isn’t a once-and-done thing. Love, the kind of love that Jesus taught and demonstrated, is a continuing action. For grammar nerds, this kind of love is in the present progressive tense. It indicates something happening now and continuing into the future. God’s love is constant and eternal, not subject to working hours or vacations or whim or desire. Our love might ebb and flow, but God’s love is always ongoing, always continuing, always the same, not impacted by anger or frustration. Not diminished by our disobedience or rebellion. For God, there is no past or future, only the present. His love is always present, always progressing.
Most of what’s wrong in our world can be attributed to human greed. We blame our culture, but where does culture come from? We want what we want, and as long as we get ours we don’t really care so much about others. Even our charity is subject to our own comfort: we give from our surplus. We fear not having enough, so we scrounge and save and hoard for ourselves. Fortunately, God doesn’t feel that way. Although our offense against him was capital, separating us from him for all eternity, he sacrificed himself so that we could be reconciled to him. If we consider the penance Jesus paid on our behalf, how can we justify denying our neighbors, our fellow humans, the same grace and mercy God offers us?
How many of the world’s problems could be solved by the application of love? Present, progressing, active love. Poverty? Solved. Crime? Finished. Hunger? Done. War? Ended. If you think that sounds a little utopian, you’re right. Utopian means modeled on or aiming for a state in which everything is perfect. That’s exactly where God is taking us: to a state of perfection. Wholeness. Completion. A new world kingdom ruled by God, everything under his authority. We can further the building of this new kingdom by loving our neighbor, thus fulfilling the greatest law and commandment. By shining the light of Jesus into all the dark places. By offering hope to those who have no hope. By being as generous with our love as God is with his own. Now and continuing. Primum non nocere.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour classes for ages preschool through adult are available following worship at 10:45.