Love above all else
One of the most challenging teachings of Jesus is his command to love one another.
We're so good at being divisive. At drawing lines and boxes around ourselves to distinguish ourselves from those who "aren't like me." At inventing ways of differentiating ourselves from our neighbor.
I've been guilty of it many, many times. Some people accused me of doing it when I helped found a chapter of a Christian fraternity. Others accuse me of it when I discern sin as sin and refuse to call it anything but. It hurts the most when I do it to myself by the sin in my own life, especially when that sin hurts others.
Sometimes I think it's easier to love people without Christ the way Christ would have us love them. We don't expect the unregenerate to act like the redeemed (well, we do, but we're not supposed to). We know that they're going to disagree with us, and we seek to "love them into the Kingdom" and "share the truth in love."
When it comes to people in the Church (universal), it's a lot harder. "How," we think, "can someone who's read the Bible think that?"
We point at one another's theological, practical, and behavioral eye-specks while continuing to walk about with a log stuck in our own. Jesus' command to love one another applies equally to believers and those who have not accepted Christ. We are supposed to love one another. And it's hard.
The Rt. Rev. John Howe, bishop of Central Florida and a man well-acquainted with disagreement in his war-torn Episcopal Church, says it this way:
"It is not by all the sermons we preach, not by all the books we publish, not by the cathedrals we build, the missionaries we send out, the bold actions we take, or even the purity of our doctrine, but it is by the quality of our relationships with others who name the name of Christ that we will prove we truly belong to him" (Central Florida Episcopalian, May 2007).
This is the sign of the Church, the mark of the redeemed, the symbol of Christ: "by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Loving and holy Father in Heaven, we confess that we do not love you with our whole heart or love our neighbor as ourselves. We glorify your self-sacrificing love, the love that compelled you to leave Heaven, take on our dirty flesh, and die for us. Help us, God, to love one another, as you commanded us. Thank you for loving us and teaching us to love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.