Thursday, May 16, 2019

How Will They Know?

They will know we are Christians by our...
Historically authentic expressions of worship
Culturally relevant liturgies
Rubrical precision
Willingness to discard the rules to make worship truly meaningful
Faithful adherence to Nicene orthodoxy
Openness to the Holy Spirit's guidance
Uncompromising commitment to the authority of scripture
Reliance on tradition, reason, and experience
Holiness of life
Ability to identify with the outcasts and sinners of society
Baptismal ecclesiology
Open table
Dependence on the ancient four-fold ministry of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity
Rejection of the eroding bastions of patriarchal clericalism
Celebrated heritage
Postcolonial, postracial, postgender identity
Belief in the sanctity of all life
Conviction that a woman should have control over her own body
Devotion to established understandings of sexuality, marriage, and gender
Refusal to accept outdated definitions of love, relationship, and personhood

Jesus did not say any of that. Instead, as we hear again this Sunday, Jesus said, "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." Everyone will know that we are disciples of Jesus if we have love for one another.

Everyone in the church wants to be right. And we want to be right for good and right reasons. We want our doctrine, discipline, and worship to help the world know the saving love of God in Jesus Christ. On every issue, whichever side we are on, we are on that side because we believe that it will help the work of the gospel. Even though we reach diametrically opposed conclusions about what God's will for the world and the church are, we all want to be faithful to Jesus. When we reject women's ordination or embrace it, when we refuse the sanctity of marriage to a same-sex couple or encourage it, when we restrict Communion to the baptized or fling the sacramental gates wide open, we do so because we are trying our best to be faithful followers of Jesus.

I think Jesus knew what he was saying. I think he knew what sort of polarized, fractured community the church would become, so he reminded us what really matters: "Everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." Love first, doctrine second. Love first, discipline second. Love first, all other ethical, liturgical, exegetical, soterilogical, theological considerations second.

How much effort do we give to love? How important to us is it that the world see how much we love one another? Instead of trying to prove our fidelity to Jesus by showing the world how right we are, let's show them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus by loving one another as we have been loved. We will not agree with one another, but we will show the world the gospel of Jesus Christ when we love each other anyway.

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