4-19-16 - Commanded to Love

We don’t tend to think of love as something one must be commanded to do. In fact, a commandment to love seems an oxymoron – love by its nature is freely given. Yet we also know that when love is only a feeling and not a choice, it can fluctuate the way feelings do, resulting in chaos and heartbreak. So we put structures around love with vows and norms and tax laws. People pledge commitments to one another for the days they don’t feel so loving.

Jesus must have known it wouldn’t be any easier to be his church than it was to be married. The commandment he gives his disciples on his last night with them is directed to those who would carry forward his name in the world, the community of Christ-followers. And he is direct:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Love was to mark the Christian community. Not congregation size or feeding programs or missionaries supported or peace marches participated in. Love. For each other.

How we doing by that measure, 2000+ years later? Does it surprise us that many churches have more real estate than people? Poll after poll shows that many, especially the Millennials everyone wants in their churches, feel the Church is marked by judgmentalism, commercialism, hypocrisy, intolerance, greed and irrelevance. If Christians are not in the papers for offending someone, we’re boring people to death. The liberal/conservative fault lines are so deep, there are such discrepancies between how certain scriptures are interpreted, and even which scripture to focus on - we’ve lost the heart of Jesus in the scramble to represent him.

We have to figure this out, because I believe in God's dream for the Church. I believe it is the mystical Body of Christ, his hands and feet and voice and conscience given for the life of this world. I believe there is still power in this ancient idea, this sacred community across time and space. I believe this is the way God has chosen to make his love abundantly real to the world, the vessel through which God’s transforming love can work the most powerfully.

But the only message the world will truly understand is love. How do we live into Jesus’ command to love our fellow Christ-followers, even when they seem to flout his commands? We can only get there by allowing God to love us, to fill us with his love. We can only get there by acknowledging the ways we judge and belittle others. We need to invite God to show us what she treasures about our brothers and sisters who offend us, to see the wounds that might cause behavior or words we consider harmful.

Today, think of a Christian you have trouble with. Hold him or her in your mind’s eye. And then pray for her or him to be blitzed with God’s blessing. Rinse and repeat tomorrow.

Friends. Jesus said his disciples were no longer servants, but friends, chosen in love, appointed to bear fruit, enduring, life-changing fruit. If we want to do that, be that, we need to learn how to love one another.

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