A few months ago, I was asked to speak to a women’s group on what it means to “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2). My answer: “We can’t. Sorry. Good news? Jesus can! And did! And does! Thanks for having me. Now let’s go eat.”
So there might be a little more to it than that.
We walk in love because Christ has already walked in love for us. He walked in love by becoming a man, by becoming one of us, by wrapping Himself up in blood and skin and calluses and hair just like ours. He walked in love all the way from His parents’ home, to the temple, from village to village, to Mary and Martha’s, to the Mount of Olives, to Jerusalem, to Golgotha. He walked in love by advocating for sinners before the Father and reconciling them to Himself, by overcoming sin, putting death to death, unseating Satan and all his angels.
He walked in love by teaching, preaching, baptizing. He gave us His disciples–He gave us pastors–to make clear His profound Word. He walked in love by giving us His Body and His Blood. And even in that gift, He gave us still more gifts: pardon, peace, strength in suffering, and preservation in this life until we are brought to the most perfect of rests.
All of this is to say that He walks in love by giving. He gives of Himself, gives His forgiveness, gives His Father’s gifts of mercy and of grace, gives His own life. His walking and His giving define who He is, what He does, how He acts on our behalf.
And although we can hardly wrap our heads around it, we hear from our Lord Himself that He does all this simply out the depth of His profound and true love for us. He does it all for the benefit, for the protection, for the well-being and strengthening of those who are on the receiving end, for each one of you. He walked in love so that you would know comfort and consolation, so that you would know compassion in your suffering, so that you would hear that you are forgiven for all the skunky things you’ve done.
And all my skunky stuff too. And I’m a farm girl, so I know/smell skunky when I see it.
It seems too good to be true to us sinners, good Lutherans that we are. We can’t quite comprehend it. The gunk of our sin muddles our understanding. We are too busy with our pet sins, too caught up in trying to get away with the ones we particularly like to commit. We don’t think they’re all that bad, or that they are harmful to us, or that the Bible really means it when it tells us that the wages of sin is really, actually death. We are all like little Eves in the Garden of Eden, listening with itching ears to Satan’s famous line, “Did God reallllly say . . . ?”
We tell ourselves that He didn’t really say. We tell ourselves that it’s ok to have a few harmless sins, that it’s all right to indulge in them now and then, to shove them back in the closet or under the bed or in the trunk when we think we’re about to get caught. We think we can convince ourselves that we can sin and that no one will know.
But someone always knows. And we are always wrong. And sin always hurts. And it always affects those we love. And yet again and again, minute by minute, we are always trying to turn the focus back on ourselves, back on what we do, back on, well, anything that isn’t Christ.
Thus, our reminder to walk in love. We need it. We need to be reminded that cannot walk in love on our own. On our own, we commit adultery, we lie to our children, we slack off at work, we skip church for a stupid T-ball game.
And we regret it.
And we should.
That is why we are reminded to walk in love, to stay away from those things that would hurt and harm us in the first place, to follow Christ’s lead, to spare ourselves sorrow and pain and grief. That is why Christ gives us His Gospel, why He urges us gently to act according to His profound grace, why He makes us to walk in love through no action over our own.
Instead, He walks in love for us. He redeems us. He keeps the Law in our place. He meets the demands. He upholds the rules. He fulfills the commandments. He gives Himself up for us. He is a fragrant offering. He is the best and perfect sacrifice. He is enough.