The desire to solve the world's problems can lead us from the Way we have been called to follow; the Way that can heal and bless and save.
Jesus said, “My dear ones, I won’t be with you much longer. You’ll look for me and, as I said to the Judeans I now say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come with me.’
“I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. This is how people will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”
Yippee! This week we get to hear one of Christianity’s favorite passages — as well-loved as John 3:16 and its companion:
For God so loved the world that He gave His Son, that One, so everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
Love and life, not condemnation — but salvation! A perfect summary of our faith.
To paraphrase Pilate’s question on a related topic, “What is love?” What does it mean and who does it apply to? We say that it applies to everyone.
In truth, we behave as if it is a conditional statement; as if there are “others,” we have permission to ignore or avoid. Who can blame people for believing that our Lord told His followers, “Exclude, condemn, and despise one another” ?
It is happening once again. Christians have fallen into the Pit: blindly following the blind. Positions have been staked, claims have been made, lines have been drawn, and we are bloodied in the battle. As always with foot soldiers, we are as much victims as are those entrenched in “enemy” lines for — in the classic phrase, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”
In our rush to be “on the side of the angels,” we engaged without remembering Whose side we are supposed to be on: that of the One who said, “Love one another.”
So anxious are we to “defend” those who are “right,” we forget (or ignore) Jesus’ Prime Directive: the fact that His followers are called to LOVE. Not hate, not demean, not mock, not condemn (remember who behaved that way toward Jesus?). We are called to love — not just some people, but all people; even those “on the other side” — who are not “others,” but part of that great one another our Lord Christ told us about.
What is love? Is it not compassion? Isn’t it defined by care, concern, a listening heart, a desire for the best for one another; that all shall be blessed and grow in grace; that we shall, each of us, become the beautiful creatures we were designed to be?
What does it mean — what does it say about us — when we engage in condemnation and denigration; when we become “warriors” for a cause, ignoring our Lord’s teachings? There can be nothing that overrides our call to be Light Bringers, Life givers, Peace makers. To discount and despise others is not the Way of Christ, but a destructive and toxic path to oblivion; it is to fall into the Pit of hatred, to lose our bearings, to forget our Call to compassion. It is to betray Christ.
Those who disagree with us are not “the enemy”: the enemy is the one who insists that we are utterly divided; that there can be no common ground, no communication, no understanding — only competition and conceit: we are right, and you are wrong. That is the voice of the tempter; the enticement of ego, the lure of (self) “righteousness” that leads to great confusion and great danger.
When Jesus spoke about separating the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46), do you remember who made the determination? It was the King who decided; the sheep didn’t take a poll to choose who would be the goats. It isn’t our job to decide who’s in and who’s out.
We all hope to be — and to behave as — His sheep: to follow our Shepherd, gently, tenderly; rather than engage in warfare — that’s what wolves do.
How, then, shall we act? What shall we do? We might just want to start with doing as our Lord Christ taught us.
Knowing his time was short; that what he said at that point really mattered, Jesus said:
“Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. This is how people will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”We are to have love for one another. This is not an aside, or a minor detail of our faith; Jesus tells us it is a commandment: it is essentially, unforgettably, undeniably important. We are to have love for one another even when we disagree — especially when we disagree. (Talk about counter-cultural!!) Hatred, contempt, and condemnation should hold no place in our hearts, in our thoughts, or in our conversations.
You’ll note — as I often do, that no where does Jesus say this is easy. It isn’t.
It is tremendously easy to get caught up in the passionate plaints, the worst woundings, the genuine suffering in the world; and it is oh, so tempting to believe that there can be a single, easy answer that resolves everything perfectly. There isn’t.
The only solutions we are likely to discover for the problems and concerns that arise is… [wait for it!]… if we have love for one another.
To insist on “our” way is to fall into the hubris of believing that we are all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise — and we, mere mortals, are none of those things. The issues confronting us are too complex, our technology too advanced, the situations too unique for a one-size-fits-all “fix,” much as we might wish it.
If we have love for one another, we will not judge or condemn, but will listen to one another with compassion and concern; seeking to understand, to bless, to uplift. We will not be divided as “the world” insists we must be, but will continue to care for one another and to have compassion for one another, even in our disagreements, remembering, with humility and God’s grace, that the only “right side” of any dispute is that of Christian love for one another.
May Christ’s grace and healing love abound,
Jesus said: “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. This is how people will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”
He never said it was going to be easy!