Overcoming our Lack of Love for Christ’s church
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Paul sets forth in this statement from 1 Corinthians 12:13 a guiding principle for how we are called to be the one church of Christ. This attitude towards other Christians is certainly the ideal as Paul describes it. Unfortunately, the whole church of Christ is far off the mark in its dealings with other Christians, because we are more concerned about being right in our interpretation of Scriptures than being loving towards each other. Whether we are conservative Christians claiming that the correct reading of Scripture is the strict one or we are liberal Christians holding that it is the new more liberal translations and interpretations that are right, and every variation in between, we are sure that we have the true reading and everyone else is wrong. The old hymn—“They will know we are Christians by our love”—is no longer prophetic.
It is a big leap for us Christians to love another, to respect another’s beliefs, to embrace another interpretation long enough to see its value and what it might add to our own reading. But if we admit that Christ looks on this earthly congregation as wholly his, then we have to admit that each sect and denomination belongs and adds value to the whole, just as Paul wrote that a physical body needs all its various parts. For the sake of the Christ, for the sake of the God of love, we must succeed at the task of valuing all the other believers, even when we feel they may be wrong in their beliefs. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [Jn13:34-5]
“The way, the truth and the light,”[Jn 14:6] the way that Jesus taught and lived is the Way we are to follow. Anything less than that and we are hypocrites, masquerading as believers in Christ, but not expressing anything close to the way, the truth and the light of Christ.
Anything less than a full commitment to the entire Church of Jesus Christ falls far short of a person’s commitment to Christ. If we are not open to hearing how Christ views his whole body, we are serving only ourselves, not him. How are we to make this leap of faith and love when we are so far from living this way? Looking to Christ as the teacher of how to live out our faith, we must first of all bow to a broader view of the value of the whole church. If we are not seeing with Christ’s eyes, if we have not truly opened ourselves to his wisdom, then we need to bring ourselves into alignment with his teachings, not with our interpretations. So think first to what he modeled as he lived and taught those many centuries ago in Palestine. He railed at the Pharisees, the hypocrites of his day; he hung out with the rejects and dregs of the Judaism—the tax collector, the outcast, the unclean, the foreigner; he healed; he raised from the dead; he spent time alone with God. He came to fulfill the law, to preach the “Good News,” because the law was then practiced without love and respect for fellow human beings. Every detail was followed to the nth degree, but without the understanding of what the law meant to God.
In some unfathomable way[at least to us human beings] we Christians are the whole church of Jesus Christ. It is not up to us to decide who or what beliefs belong and what does not. We are all branches on the true vine of Christ and God is the gardener.[Jn 15:1-2] We can count on the Gardener and the Vine to bring the church into right alignment so that we can be loving disciples of Christ, if we will set aside our will and let God’s will prevail.