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Love speaks unconditionally
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It was nearly 20 years ago now. My dad took the opportunity to speak to the court at the trial of the man who killed my sister, his daughter. You see, the man had gotten drunk...again, and gotten behind the wheel...again, even though his license had been taken away, even though he knew better, even though he had been warned and cited and told. All this my dad knew.

But when my dad spoke, it was not to condemn the man. It was to forgive him, to tell him he held no grudge. When he spoke, it was not to wish justice on him, but to tell him and the whole court of God's mercy that he would love to tell that man more about if he was willing to listen. In the face of the pain of losing his own child, my dad's love spoke. No, scratch that. It wasn't my dad's love speaking. It was the love of God through Christ speaking. It was the forgiveness that he had received, the sacrifice made for him that spoke, that caused him to sacrifice any feelings of revenge or anger and let the love speak.

But really, my dad's love was nothing compared to what we see in our text. God's love is absolutely unconditional, undeserved, even nonsensical. And when we see his love, we imitate it.

Look up Romans 5:6-11 in your Bibles. From front to back we see the unconditional, undeserved,and unreserved love of our God. Paul writes: (verse 6) "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." In order to try to wrap ourselves around this love, I think we have to compare it to what we are used to in love. Catch how we are described - "still powerless," unable to help ourselves. So ask yourself: Could you help...

• the little child who can't reach the drinking fountain and you give her a lift?

• the elderly parent completely helpless to get up after a fall, and you help?

• the drowning victim who can't swim and you are the lifeguard?

• the person trapped under the timber in a burning building?

Now crank it up a notch, add in what God did to help. Could you die for any of those? In verse 7, Paul admits, it's possible that we humans might die to help someone else...possibly, maybe even probably if it is someone that's been good to us. Maybe you could. But look at verse 8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this," this is God-level love: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Would you be able to sacrifice, even die for the...

• bully at school who has made your life miserable just because your assigned seat happens to be in his vicinity?

• How about the drunk driver who ran over your sister, taking her from you...would you take his prison sentence so he could go free? What about if you knew he would likely do it again?

• or the adulterer who had an affair with your wife and now needs a liver transplant or he will die? Could you give that liver? What about a heart? Your life for his? The doctors wouldn't even ask. They wouldn't do it - that's how far out of the range of human possibility that is.

But, that is God's love. When we take his blessings and complain...when we live the life he's given us and mock someone for being what God made them...when we take from him and act like he's intruding on our lives when he asks for some back...when we take his love and instead show greed or anger or hate...when we kill his son to pay our debt and then go right ahead and sin again.

Could you ever even imagine loving like that? We can't even comprehend that absolutely unconditional love of God. But when we see it, we can't help but reflect it. When we hear him speak it to us, we too will speak. Do you hear it? God's love spoke unconditionally when he promised us his son for our sin. It spoke unconditionally when he sent forth his son. It speaks unconditionally as he calls us his own and gives us his name in baptism.

Love speaks unconditionally to all. And when it does...and when God chooses to change a heart through the word your love speaks, you know exactly what Paul is talking about when he says that we "rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at