When reading the gospels, it’s important to remember that Jesus was the most intentional man who ever lived. Only a timeless being, eternally existent, could really comprehend the constraints of time. He was aware – perhaps painfully, at times – that He was cramming a lot into 3 years of ministry.
With that in mind, every word He spoke seems more like a nugget of gold than a haphazard comment. The Man Jesus did not waste a word. He literally knew the exact number He had been alloted to say in His window of time.
It’s interesting then, that near the eve of his crucifixion, He throws out a new idea to them. It’s hard to think of this as a new idea, but He literally frames it that way in John 13:34: “A new command I give you….”.
This introduction probably sent them scurrying through their backpacks for a pencil. “A new command?!? I haven’t been able to keep all the old ones! Oh man – somebody write this down!”.
Then He lays it on them. To a group who were used to the heavy yoke of Judaism, the laws, the regulations, the phylacteries tied to foreheads, He drops this ecclesiastical bomb: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus, no doubt chaffing slightly under the constraints of time and space, issued an executive order just before leaving the scene. It wasn’t a plan of attack or an org chart. Those would have been easy to follow (or ignore). No, it was a paradigm…a lens to view fellow believers through.
Judging by the looks of the church in America, it seems we would have preferred something else. The conservatives rail against the methods of the emergents who rail back, taking the additional liberty afforded them to do so while drinking beer. The fundies slap ‘liberal’ stickers on everyone who doesn’t wear koolats to gym class and the Church 2.0 guys roll their eyes at and mouse over those who just don’t understand. A whole lotta judging, not a whole lotta lovin. We have all the makings of a country song here in that it would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
I’m not suggesting we overlook harmful theology. I am suggesting, though, that we separate how we feel about peoples’ ideas and practices from what we say and feel about them as people.
We are in a weird spot of having more grace for unbelievers than we do for our brothers. Some would wear that as a badge of courage. I hear it all the time. “I can put up with nonChristians – it’s the church that bugs me.” How unChristlike of us.
I think we missed it when Jesus said “Oh yeah….one more thing…love one another.”