[Day 26 was another choose your own text day, and with other things to do well.... I had a Sabbath rest ;) ]
If you were to ask someone from outside the church what they thought of Christians, I suspect you wouldn't be so thrilled with what they said. Hopefully a friend might have a better opinion since they knew you, but we are typically not known as a harmonious bunch. Do we argue about theology? Are those arguments public? Or what of the recent revelations of how someone seeking to be reconciled to the Catholic Church was treated for daring to raise what has happened to them?
In today's reading of John 13:18-38, I want to focus just on verses 31-35. Jesus knows he is soon about to die, and gives them a new commandment - to love each other. Surely though love does not have to be commanded? Isn't love all about feeling? Well anyone who's been a parent knows that they love their children, but being up all night with a spewing child or putting up with a tantrum shows us that love has to be expressed - it's a verb not just a noun.
Likewise, anyone who goes to church and knows anyone who isn't exactly like them knows that love has to be done, not talked about. It is hard. People are hard to love, and we'd rather be loved than love.
So we are told to love in the same way that Jesus loved us - to be precise Jesus tells his disciples that they should love each other in the same way he did, but it is understood this is to be the pattern for all Christians. Given Jesus did it in very obvious and culturally relevant ways, like foot washing, so we are to put ourselves below others to love them.
Notice that while doctrinal purity is important - we need to try and understand the bible as best we can - it is orthopraxy over orthodoxy here (or there are some important aspects in the background). People know we are Christians if we love each other despite of our differences, practicing a generous orthodoxy, forgiving each other our sins and pursuing the Christian life in community. Nit picky gatekeeping should be anathema. Guarding important truths is very important, but love comes first.
In a digital age, blogs, Facebook groups, online forums, etc are all places where hate and unforgiveness can easily be practiced. This is not to say critical reflection is out of place, but Christian charity is front and centre. So where ever you are - love and serve others
"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.”