What if all Christians were to love one another? What if all the splintered Lutherans loved each other: the Missouri Synod people and the Evangelicals? the Presbyterian Church in the USA people loved the Orthodox Presbyterians and the other more conservative Presbyterians loved each other? the United Methodist people loved the African Methodist Episcopal members? all the now splintering Episcopal Church people loved those splitting off as well as the Anglican Church members? the newly conservative Catholic Church people embraced the liberal Catholics and visa versa? the Evangelicals loved the Pentacostals? the Christian Science members embraced the people who didn’t agree with them? Nothing about our beliefs would have to change if we were to love each and every other Christian as part of the body of Christ that the church, the whole church, is. If all Christians were to love one another, then we would be a force for love in the entire world. We would be living out the Two Great Commandments to love God with our all and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It is so easy to draw lines between groups and to be angry and feel justified in our beliefs as opposed to another’s, but we have to rise above our own little lives and think of the world in God’s terms. God’s love is free-flowing and available to all as long as we turn to God; so, too, is our love if we have really turned our lives over to God. If we start with the people that we have the most in common with—Christians because of their love of Jesus the Christ, then we are embracing the whole church and each denomination’s true worth in the eyes of God.
We have much to learn from each other. I don’t think that any one church or sect or denomination has a lock on what it means to love God. Each one contributes to our whole understanding of what living the life we are called to in Christ. From the Pentecostals we might learn to be more available to the Holy Spirit. From the Catholics we could learn how to live in the mystery, how to venerate those who have lived the Life of the Spirit, how to be under the authority of God, what a life of service is. From the Mainline churches we could learn how new interpretations of the Scriptures leads us to new ways of being with God and how to truly serve the poor. From the Evangelicals we could learn from their dedication to the Bible, their knowledge of God’s Word. From the Christian Scientists we might learn how our thinking influences our behavior and our health. And so on. Each sect/denomination offers its understanding to the world of what God’s call is like. None of them is the complete story.
We live that incompleteness in our relationship to God if we ignore what other churches are holding out to the whole church. In God’s love there is freedom, not rigidity; in God’s love there is truth, not my preferences; in God’s love there is inclusiveness, not exclusion; in God’s love there is forgiveness, not holding on to past hurts. We can love anyone we choose without losing our own center. It’s a matter of choice. If we choose to love our Christian neighbors, then we are allowing God’s love to flow through us and out to the people we agree with and those with whom we don’t agree. What a power we unleash in the world when we move out of our narrow confines, guarding ourselves against all others, and embrace those who follow the same Lord that we do.
We would leave behind our factions and divisions; love would heal all the woundedness and disagreements. The world would look at us with new eyes as we demonstrate God’s love among all of us. They would no longer be put off by our divisions and take notice of the caring we had for each other. And what else could happen if we were to love all Christians? Only God knows for sure, but when we cease to hang on to our “own way” and embrace God’s way, we would find ourselves living at peace with our fellow men and women. The way we tackle problems in the world and respond to God’s calls to us would change drastically. All the energy that we now put into the divisions would be unleashed in a positive way upon the world. And the world would sit up and take notice of what love can do. And then we might love everyone in the world! Imagine!!