Why Are We So Divided? What Can We Do About it?

A Reader Asks: I’m confused. Why are there so many churches, all with different  labels such as, Denominational. Non-denominational, Catholic, Independent, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Charismatic, Baptist, Orthodox, on and on?  Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is there such a thing as one true church?

What did Jesus intend for his church? If we can get a hold of this single idea, we may be able to untangle this webWhen Jesus declared to Peter, “I will build my church,” did he have a non-profit institution in mind or was his intent to build a community of faithful, active disciples?  Well, let’s look at what a non-profit requires: (1) A name (label); (2) By-laws (Polity–how it’s run); (3) Articles of Incorporation (Statements of  Faith); (4) Money; (tithes and offerings); (5) Leadership (professional clergy to run it) and a Constituency (laity). Does this sound like the community of faith Jesus had in mind? In other words…

Is the church an institution?  A wag once said, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to be in an institution?”  Indeed! We realize marriage isn’t an institution, but  a committed relationship between two individuals—a “we” not an “it.”  Is the church more like marriage or more like a non profit?  

Did Jesus love and die for a people or an institution? What does the Bible say? When we gather or dispersed, are we called to be a living community or an organization? Notice how biblical synonyms for Christ’s church stress the personal over the impersonal.

  • Bride of Christ ”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved [agape] the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church. Eph. 5:25- 26 (FYI: NIV accurately uses “her.”  Many translations mistakenly refer to the bride as “it.”
  • Eklesia, the Greek word Jesus uses for church, means “a gathering of people.” Certainly a community not an  “it.” (BTW: Synagogue has exactly the same meaning.)
  • Body of Christ. ”so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one of us members of one another. (Romans 5: 12). (BTW: When Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me, he meant, his church body. Is this where Paul arrived at the revelation of the church being Christ’s body on earth?)
  • God’s Temple isn’t a thing either, as Paul explains, ”Don’t you know you all (plural) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (Romans 3:16)

These are the Questions we must ask: Is God’s house a building or the people inside? Does He live in things or believers? Does He inhabit institutions or does he dwell and empower the believing community within [and sometimes without] those institutions?

How did the living Church become Institutional? In the third century, church leaders began to assume special titles of rank and position for themselves. Today we call them  “clergy.” Over time they expanded their role to one of authority and learning above and apart from rank and file believers— called “laity.” (BTW: The terms laity and clergy are not found in the Bible)

Today many so called laity find they are relegated to the role of pew sitters. Like fans at a football game, they are spectators who support the team, but unlike clergy professionals, are not active participants. Was this Jesus’ dream for his church? Was this how early Christians were regarded?

Just the Opposite: Paul stressed, ”faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other.” (Col. 3: 11. See also Eph. 4)  Ironically Peter, who was promoted to a Roman pope posthumously, wrote that all believers are “royal, holy priests (1 Peter 2: 5, 9). Moreover, in the Bible. we find every member had an important function in the body. (I Cor 12 and Romans 12) True, certain individuals were gifted by the Spirit to lead as prophets, apostles, pastors, episcopoi (bishops), and presbyteroi (elders). But these gifts were not seen in any way as creating a superior class of Christian.

Over the years the church became more and more identified with her leaders not the people. An extensive hierarchy developed. To accommodate elaborate and often extravagant systems, measures were required to organize into complex and well-funded institutions. Massive building projects followed. Today tourists are wowed by these hundreds of spectacular cathedrals all over Europe, but with hardly any worshippers.

The Reformation was supposed to cure this, but sadly did not. The same division between “clergy” and “laity” prevailed. Moreover, there was a strong emphasis on the  doctrine of “freedom of conscience.” This justified various leaders who had differing ideas, often about Communion and Baptism, to form denominations and sects, following their own doctrines and ethnicity. In America, those division have multiplied exponentially far beyond anything we find in Europe.

Our next post will address the difficult question” What can we do about it?

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When a Man Loves a Woman

It was Percy Sledge who sang that song, describing how a man feels when he falls in love. That’s the fun part, the easy part. But how does he win that woman’s love and keep it burning all their days?  That’s a lot tougher thing—one God himself has to deal with concerning his human creation.

Is it odd to consider He wants that kind of relationship with us? It’s pure Bible. Jesus described himself as a bridegroom coming one day for us, his bride. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves us, His church.  Hosea wrote of a day to come when:

“You will call me your Husband, not your Master…and I will make a new covenant…when you will be mine, faithful and true, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll wed you and will never leave nor forsake you. You will know me for who I am, your Lord.”

I was always taught, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Yet what man is foolish enough to think he can win the woman he loves by telling her, “I order you to love me.”  I tried to show God my love by doing the things they taught me in church. Gaylord Enns, a pastor friend of mine tried all his life to obey that command. But how could he just love God? He had a life to live, responsibilities, people depending on him. He felt guilty that he wasn’t praying enough, reading Scripture enough, witnessing enough, etc. One day he had a complete breakdown. While recovering, he began taking a new look at the Scriptures. Eventually Gaylord was set free from the bondage of that old law. You can read all about it in his monumental book, The Love Revolution. Discovering the Lost Commandment of Jesus.

When I was young and stupid, I gave up on loving God.  What had he done for me, except put me in this evil world, filled with crushing losses and disappointments? I even began to study atheism. But God didn’t give up on me. He led me to some believers at Yale University who accepted me and took me in. This caused a doubt: maybe I was wrong about God. One night we sang a Wesley hymn, “Amazing love, how  can it be, that Thou my God hast died for me.” I was shocked! Was Jesus God? I never knew that. I got alone to pray to God, who until that moment, I had rejected. But he hadn’t  rejected me.

It was at my conversion that I knew for sure God hadn’t abandoned us while  comfortable in his heaven. He came down to live with us, suffered with us, went to a cruel cross, stretched out his arms to say, “I love you this much!” I knew then the song I sang in Sunday School was true, Jesus loves me, this I know. “Jesus,” I prayed “I’m yours.” Only lately however, have I come to understand that God knew ordering us to love him wouldn’t work. It was a temporary measure until He actually proved His love by doing this amazing thing for us.

The New Covenant Has a New Command.  It’s been lost on us, maybe because we’ve been so stuck trying to obey the old one. John writes clearly of the night Jesus was betrayed when he washed their feet, instituted a meal commemorating his coming sacrifice and gave them a new order for a new order.

“A new command I give you: Love one another in the way I loved you. This is how you must love one another. By this everyone will recognize you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13: 34,35)

Confused? You are probably thinking, “That doesn’t make sense.”  He knows it doesn’t work to command us to love him. Why then does he order us to love these people, who are, after all, a lot harder to love than He is? Stay tuned. In our next post we will examine this apparent contradiction and see how supremely logical God is.

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The Biblical Roots of Self Government

The Revolutionary ideals of our Constitution allow individuals the right of self-government over the rule and authority of kings.  Where did this idea originate?  Ancient Greece, John Calvin and John Locke’s writings get some credit. The Mayflower Compact was key as was Connecticut’s Fundamental Order. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, anticipating the First Amendment, stood up for the liberty of individual conscience in matters of faith. They opposed puritan authorities who exercised authority over fellow citizens. often punishing them for not conforming to church doctrines. Later these puritans burned at the stake those believed to be witches

The roots of self-government are found much earlier however–over and again in the Bible.

“In Our Own Image.” Way back in Genesis, God gives mankind the gift of choice, even when that gift is misused. It is a principle fundamental to the ideal of self-government. First He created man in his own image. Then He challenged Adam, “You may eat of any tree of the garden but one.” Did man fall because God put temptation before him? Not at all—if a man isn’t free to choose the wrong path, neither is he free to choose the right one.” That’s God’s divine principle when dealing with us. That tree actually represents our freedom to exercise sovereignty, to make moral and spiritual choices. It also affirms our high calling, possessing the  very image of the sovereign God within us,

The Tower of Babel In Genesis 6,  we are given more insight into mankind’s sovereignty to make choicesm this time about ordering their social and economic lives. Their decision to build a tower was not made by a king or emperor. Rather, “They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and fire and build …then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven.” In this case God did a rare thing. He moved to overrule this decision by confusing their language. Why? Because, as He said, “They are united as one people and one language …. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!”

Choose You This Day. Israel found itself in a valley of decision in their new land when Joshua challenged them, “If it doesn’t please you to serve the Lord, choose today: will you worship the gods your fathers did beyond the River?…  As for me and my family, we will choose the Lord.”  To their credit, the people answered, “The Lord our God we will serve,” making God, their King–ordering their lives by the old covenant law of Moses.

King or No King. But things didn’t always turn out so rosy. Years later, Israel wanted another option. Even after they were warned how harshly kings would treat them, they still demanded one,. They wanted to conform to the nations around them. Reluctantly, the Lord gave in to their wishes, revealing once more how rare it is that he reneges on  granting us sovereignty to make bad choices. Again, this includes choosing our government. He told an irate Samuel, “Listen to their voice and make them a king.” Samuel anointed Saul—just one more regular guy becoming a big shot abusing his office.

Democracy and the Church  In Acts 6, novice church leaders face their first big conflict. In rapidly growing First Church, Jerusalem, Greek speaking believers complain. Their needy ones are being pushed aside by Hebrew speaking believers at the dinner table. The apostles hold a caucus and make a ground-breaking decision. Even though Jesus gave them apostolic authority, they called a congregational meeting, humbly instructing the people, “You choose seven men from your number who are trustworthy, full of the Spirit and have good sense. We will turn this matter over to them.” They not only declined to make the decision themselves, they stepped aside to share leadership. More revolutionary, they delegated authority to the people by giving them the vote In doing so, they follow God’s plan, granting freedom in the matter of government even in the church                                                                                                                                                                                             The Mark of Great Leadership.This isn’t just good leadership. This is great leadership. Church leaders today might take note.

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Book Review: The Love Revolution, by Gaylord Enns

With this post we offer our review of a book that some of us have found to be a personal treasure, The Love Revolution by Gaylord Enns. Our New Canaan Society (NCS) men’s group has been reading and discussing it for weeks and it’s changing  some of our lives. Goodreads rates it five stars, commenting, “Get ready! Love Revolution will rock your world!”

Hidden in Plain Sight The book’s subtitle is Rediscovering the Lost Commandment of Jesus  No, the author isn’t suggesting a lost command of Jesus has recently surfaced. It’s been with us all along. Gaylord writes that Jesus gave us his love command in John 13: 34, 35 when he instituted the new covenant. In case they missed it, he gave it twice again in John 15:12, 17. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. He added, “If you do this, the world will recognize you as my disciples.”

How did we miss it? After reading chapter eight of the book, Dave, our group’s leader was aghast. “How is it that, after all these years, I didn’t see this?” Well, he isn’t alone. Many believers believe Jesus great command is “Love God with all your heart, soul mind and your neighbor as yourself.”  Go back and read it again in context. It wasn’t Jesus’ command at all, but the one God gave Moses’–His old order for the old order. Jesus gave a new order for a new order i.e. a new command for a new covenant.

But Jesus said them, right? Yes, Jesus did say them, but he quoted it from the old covenant  when an expert in the Law asked, “Master, which is the great commandment of the law of Moses.Jesus quoted Moses, but never said it was his command, but Moses’. He never taught it to his disciples and it’s found nowhere else in the New Testament. “Astonishingly,” Gaylord writes, “all these years most of us have substituted the two core commandments of the old covenant for the two commands of the new.”

The crux of the book is that Jesus came to bring us grace, truth and love, paying for it with his blood. His joyous good news is that we are free from the harsh demands of the law, and this includes the command to love God and our neighborHold on now. Don’t jump the gun. Let’s give our author a chance to explain, which he does very well.

The Burden of the Law. With genuine honesty and humility, Gaylord shares his own struggles, of how hard he tried, all his life and ministry, to obey this mandate to love God with all of his being. Like many of us, he often felt nagging guilt that he was never really able to love God enough. Family and church responsibilities “kept me from being as devoted to God as I should be ”….feeling I should spend more time in prayer and in the study of the Scriptures.” Think of it! The law’s demand put him in the awful bind of being torn between loving God and loving others: his family and congregation. I can relate.

Down the Rabbit Hole. Without knowing it, over the years, this burden was taking its toll on him. His faith was becoming a burden not a joy. In 2001 he fell into that hole, experiencing a complete breakdown, taking a full year to recover. But, thank God, during recovery, he made the discoveries of a lifetime. When he was back, leading his congregation of 33 years, it was with fresh insights that changed his life and the direction of his ministry forever. He was, and is, on a journey rediscovering Jesus’ neglected command, not only for himself, but for his Jerusalem, which is the environs of Chico, California and even to the uttermost parts of the world, literally.

Why do we love God? This is the question Gaylord answers, not by reverting to Moses’ law, which puts the burden of love on the believer. Jesus gospel of a new covenant, places the burden of love on God.  Simply put, “We love Him [only] because He first loved us.” It’s shocking, isn’t it? Somehow, God’s love for us and his desire for us to return his love has been overshadowed by a law that demands we love him! How could we have slipped back into that bondage–turning the joyous good news that, “God so loved the world” into, “World, you better love God!?”

Trust and obey. Gaylord explains that Jesus, like Moses, had two core commands. “Trust and obey” describes them in a nutshell.  He identifies Jesus first command is to believe in Jesus in John 3: 16. We find it throughout the gospels, especially in his reply to those who asked, “What does God want us to do?” This time Jesus answered with his command, not Moses.’ ”God wants you to believe in the One He has sent.” This is the  gospel, preached by His apostles,  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Gaylord found how often Paul referenced them, “When I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” (Ephesians 1: 15, 156) “We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people (Col 1: 3, 4)

His second command, ”Love one another,” follows necessarily from his first. Gaylord stresses that love for God results from putting our trust in His son. New Covenant faith begins with trust, but doesn’t end there. It leads us to love God and others, not because we are ordered to, but because we are so grateful to Him for his love, we want to.

Pastor Enns has helped me grasp once more, the simple truth that true faith in God must lead to love. And isn’t this true of any solid relationship? A great, old hymn makes it crystal clear. “Trust and obey; there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

How did we miss it?

In our next post, Gaylord answers an objection I’ve often heard to this teaching. He explains how Jesus’ two “trust and love” core commands, helps him to love God and his neighbors even more, not less. I would add that, as I continue to grasp this truth for myself, I’m more relaxed and more fun to live with—at least my wife said so today. It’s working!

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Why is the Church in Decline?

Statistics are clear. The polls tell the story. The American church is not well and our reputation is in shambles. Like the elephant in the room, these facts are largely ignored. News stories abound of attacks Evangelicals make on the sexual mores of unbelievers and how they take pot shots at one another. And why in the world are they looking to political leaders, i.e. Caesar, to lead us? Meanwhile, we have failed to reach Generations X, the Millennials and are failing to reach this generation.

Like dysfunctional families, some keep doing the same thing expecting different results. Others employ techniques of the entertainment world to build their churches. The model Jesus gave the apostles is largely ignored. Back then disciples were not spectators or bench warmers. Church leaders helped them find and use their gifts to lead and participate in various ministries. Today professionals disciple their people from the pulpit. A paid staff does most of the important stuff. Rank and file believers support, assist, and warm pews. Their gifts and talents are largely untapped. With a few exceptions, ministries are clergy-led. If new ministries emerge, more professionals are hired.

Jesus chose laymen. The clergy, Pharisees and Sadducees, rejected him. So Jesus turned to folks with jobs–laymen. He forged them into teams, utilizing their various gifts. He promised them His Spirit to empower them to be his witnesses. As a result His movement grew from 12 to 120 to 3000 to 10,000. The men and women he prepared succeeded by relying on the Spirit’s power and by following Jesus’ model.

Today Christians are on the sidelines, cheering the coach when they need to be on the field, blending their gifts with one another to light up the world and carry the gospel to others. Pastors need to come down from their pulpits, get to know their people, train leaders, form ministry teams and build up the body of Christ. When they do this, they help fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “Father, may they be one—may they be in unity as we are, that the world will believe.” (John 17: 21-23) When leaders trust their people to lead, enlist their talents, build community, encourage them and turn them loose, miracles can happen. New disciples can be won; neighbors take notice of us rather than scorn us. It’s what He promised. “Love each other (as equals) as I have loved you, and the world will recognize you as my disciples.” (John 13: 34, 35)

Jesus invented teamwork. St. Paul articulated it. Perhaps you have experienced the thrill of playing a team, sport or singing in a fine choir. I’ve played tennis singles and sung solos. But nothing beats shining with others to win a game or sing The Messiah. Imagine Handel’s thrill when he heard his masterpiece performed for the first time! It’s thrilling when the church functions like this. It gladdens the Lord’s heart and fulfills His vision for functional, workable, loving relationships in His body, the church

The Church an orchestra? Paul used the human body as an example of a healthy, growing church (1 Cor. 12: 14-26). We’ve changed the metaphor, but the principle is unchanged.   “…a fine orchestra is not made up of one instrument, but many different kinds. If the oboist says, “Because I don’t play the trumpet, I don’t belong,” that is foolish; and if the flutist were to say, “Because I do not beat a drum, I don’t belong,” that would be absurd.  If the whole orchestra were the flute, who would provide rhythm? And if all were percussionists, who would play the melody? As it is, the composer has written parts for all kinds of instruments, each to play its part in his great arrangement. And so it should be among you.”

“…So, the violinist does not say to the trombonist, “I don’t need you!” Nor does the guitarist say to the clarinet player, “I can handle this by myself!” On the contrary, all the instruments are needed, to blend together. Even the little piccolo is significant. Think how bleak “The Stars and Stripes Forever” would sound without him.” 

“So, even though instruments are tuned to different keys, when each plays his own part, the result is beautiful music. But if members go off playing their own tunes, they ruin the composition and throw off the others.  By the same token, when one player wins praise for his solo, all share in his glory.”

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When to hold ’em and when to fold ’em!

 “It’s Wrong to Compromise!” I’ve heard and understand this fish or cut bait sentiment among believers, but I tend to go along with Kenny Rogers —“You gotta know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Sometimes it takes more grit to fold em than sticking to our guns. It was was through the genius of folding ’em, i.e. compromise, that Lincoln preserved the union and emancipated the slaves. When faced with three intolerable options, he had the wit to find a fourth, knowing the murky, treacherous  waters of slavery were to be navigated the way bomb squads diffuse bombs–slowly, gently and carefully.

The framers of the constitution walked the same slippery slope.  The purists were horrified when the constitution didn’t abolish slavery. They preferred being right about the issue than bringing to birth this great nation. Can there be any doubt this great  document would have never been ratified if founding fathers hadn’t compromised?

Compromise and the law of Christ. In Luke’s account of the First Jerusalem Counsel in Acts 15, we find the church was faced with intolerable options as well. The choices were to either obey God’s law to circumcise or disobey it. After listening to arguments on both sides, James decided the Jewish branch  of the church had no right to put intolerable burdens on non-Jewish believers. It would violate the law of Christ. Leaving aside the heavier doctrines of old covenant rituals of circumcision and sabbaths, he believed Christ’s law trumped Moses. “Only abstain from the pollution of idols, from fornication and from eating what is strangled and from blood.” Gentile believers were told. It was a compromise guided by Jesus great new covenant law, “Love one another as I have loved you.”. 

While this decision angered some, it advanced Christ’s gospel by leaving the door open to the great majority of people not of the Jewish covenant. This agape, new covenant decision saved the young movement which went on to shake the world.

Strong Leaders Understand When to “Fold em.” Paul did when faced with the tricky issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Some were convicted that this was a sin. Others did not.  While agreeing with those who had no scruples about it, it was to them he wrote,  “While knowledge (i.e. being right) can produce arrogance, love builds up.” (I Cor 8:1) Paul concludes, “When you sin against brothers by wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ….so, I will not eat this meat, lest I cause my brother to stumble.” (8: 12,13). Thus we see, Christ’s law of love transcends what may be considered right and wrong. To hurt and divide Christ’s body is a far greater sin. Paul followed Jesus’ agape principle when he instructed the apostles that if they loved him and wished to abide in him, they must lay down their lives, souls, egos for each other (John 15. 12-17. In the synoptic gospels he laid down the same principle. “If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Denying ourselves sometimes means denying our need to be right and fear of being wrong for the sake of the unity of Christ’s body.

When to Hold em” While Paul told believers to fold ‘em on that occassion, there are times when  compromise was dead wrong. He tells how once he had to correct Peter, the Rock–not  for incorrect beliefs, as we tend to do in the church, but for his actions.  “Before certain men came [to Antioch]…, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from them.” (Gal 2:12). Why did the Rock violate the Jerusalem Counsel and Christ’s own command.? Paul explains, “Because he feared those of the circumcision” i.e. the purists who clung to the past and their precious doctrines even if it meant blocking God’s plan to build a new future.

Culprits causing conflicts and divisions in the church Why do Christians fight over issues of predestination vs. free will but fail to fight for Christ’s law of love? Often it’s Peter’s issue–both the one in Antioch and earlier when he warmed his hands while denying his master—his fears! What’s so wonderful and amazing about Jesus’ unfailing love is, how he handled Peter’s failure by the Galilean Sea. He folded em, i.e. he never brought up Peter’s moral failure. Instead he challenged him Do you love me?  Are you my friend?  Then love, tend and feed those I give you to lead. (See John 21: 15-17). \

Other times the cause is not our strong convictions, it’s loving them more than one another which means loving Jesus less. When I put my need to be right and fear of being wrong ahead of my love for fellow believers, I must ask myself, am I denying him as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Schisms and Divisions Among Christians

The division of the church between East and West is rooted deep in church history.  A difference of language and cultures between the West (Latin) and the East (Greek) was a factor. More troubling were their many doctrinal disputes which today seem trivial. One split was over the date of Easter.  At the Council of Nicea in 325AD, Western leaders, who celebrated Easter on Sunday, condemned the Eastern practice of celebrating it on Passover. Another was over who sent the Holy Spirit. Greek theologians argued the Father did while scholars in the West said, no, the Father and the Son did.

The Reformation was fraught with doctrinal disputes among its leaders, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the Anabaptists. A major issue centered on the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). Issues included matters such as how frequent it should be celebrated; is Christ present or not present; if he is present, how is he present?  Others argued it isn’t a sacrament at all. It is symbolic.

Why Can’t We All Get Along? Don’t you find it tragic that Jesus’ single most important doctrine:  loving each other, has taken a back seat to matters about which, Jesus and the Apostles had little or nothing to say? In fact, his command has been and continues to be, virtually ignored. I have witnessed many doctrinal disputes among believers over the years, such as the battle over how the Bible was inspired in the 70’s. The 4th century fought over who sent the Holy Spirit; the Reformers fought over the Lord’s Supper.  This last controversy is most troubling. Wasn’t it at the Lord’s Supper that Jesus ushered in his new covenant with his single command: “Love one another?” 

Rank and file believers are not guilty of dividing the body of Christ. It has always been theologians, church leaders and even political rulers who have led the charge.  While Scripture is often silent or incomplete regarding many of these doctrinal arguments, the doctrine of loving one another, is very clear. Yet, it gets cast aside in order for one leader or another to argue a favorite propositional truth. They don’t seem to grasp that by doing so, they undermine the higher truth of right relationships with God and others. Could St. Paul have made this any clearer?  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will be witnesseses, blameless and innocent,,,appearing as lights to the world.” (Phil. 2: 13, 14)

When John the Apostle was asked by his disciples why his message was always, “Love one another as Christ loved you, he answered, “Because, if you obey His one command to love each other, all else will follow.” St. Paul confirmed this (See I Corinthians 13; Romans 13:9).

The consequences of disobeying Jesus’ new order for a new order, (recorded often in John’s gospel and letters), is a tragedy of Church history, working against accomplishing Christ’s mission. After all, it was the force of their unity and mutual love that enabled early believers to bring Christ’s light to the pagan Roman world and transform it. Isn’t the church of Jesus Christ in the West, in all its forms, suffering today, in part due to our many controversies with one another? Lately we have even taken on the secular world by vigorous political involvement.

When Jesus declared, “You are the light of the world,” did he mean we are to be the world’s moral policemen or did he intend we are to model the Kingdom of God’s among ourselves and be his witnesses of love and harmony?

I have been saddened to see how we have lost the respect of the secular world. Worse, we have failed to reach three generations with Christ’s redemption. Yet, reaching the lost was very much on Jesus’ mind when he prayed urgently to the Father, “May they be one…that the world will believe.”