Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Only Answer

In John 13, Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Not by whether you go to church. Not by whether you can name the 12 apostles or recite the Nicene Creed from heart. Not by whether you say your prayers every day. (In fact, Jesus told us to say our prayers in secret.) The world will know that we are Jesus' disciples if we have love for one another. But love is a lot harder than going to church and learning some names and saying some prayers.

Jesus said to his followers, "Where I am going, you cannot come. [But, in my absence,] I give you a new commandment--that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." He speaks those words to us. He comes and meets us in flesh and blood, in bread and wine, and speaks to us again and again, "This is my commandment--that you love one another." Who we are, therefore, at the very deepest level is a people who love no matter how hard that might be.

Right now, it isn't easy to love people from Alabama. I'm from Alabama, and I feel very much loved by this community, but I also know that a lot of people in this community are angry at what the legislature in Alabama has done by making abortion illegal in almost every case. A political stunt designed to challenge Row v. Wade, the law has become a reason to post on Facebook about how Alabama and Alabamans are basically poop emojis. Of course, not everyone from Alabama thinks this is a good law. There are plenty of people in that state that are protesting vehemently. And even those who don't--even those who celebrate the passage of the law--are still human beings, made in God's image and loved by God.

Last summer, at General Convention, I saw conservative Christians from a certain church in Kansas (whose name I will not say or write) demonstrating against the Episcopal Church with signs that used a terrible slur to declared who it is that God hates. They believe that God hates homosexuals. I believe that God loves homosexuals. But, until something changes, that separation can never be closed. But I believe that love has the power to close it. I believe that God loves the people who believe that God hates homosexuals, and I believe that Jesus is calling me to love them, too. As long as two sides are separated by hate, nothing changes. Once love begins to reach across, the possibility of change exists. It may take generations, and it may be a bitter, hard, angry struggle, but love for one's enemies is the only way enmity can end.

God chooses to bridge the separation between God's self and humanity by offering love. Even to a world that repeatedly turns its back on the Creator, determined to find new ways to hate God, God reaches out in love. That's who Jesus is. That's what Jesus represents. And that's what makes us followers of Jesus. We are the ones who love across the lines of hatred. Jesus came to reconcile the world to God--to make the world the place God created it to be. And the only way that happens is love.

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