Loving and Serving As Christ

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  November 9, 2013

            Many people are in church on Sunday morning. Some may actually be the church. Yet many others—perhaps most—are only perpetuating a dangerously distorted version of Jesus Christ. It is a distortion that serves only to violate the very blessing of Christ.
            Among the indispensable commandments of scripture are the words of Jesus when he tells the disciples to love one another as he loved them. He goes on to explain to them that it is through living out of Christ’s love that the world will know the true meaning of discipleship in Christ’s name. Recalled in John 13, Jesus issues this new commandment in the upper room on the night when he would later be betrayed, right after modeling such love by washing the disciples’ feet—the same feet that would betray, deny, and abandon him that very evening.
            A short while later, in John 17, Jesus offers a powerful and profound prayer seeking God’s intervention in the lives of those who would follow Jesus that they would have the spiritual blessing to live in love and the sacred unity to express that love in tangible terms. Today, as with much of Christian history, many who claim Christ’s name are not living up to the sacred calling and blessing of Jesus Christ.
            First, we are not genuinely unified as Christ so fervently prayed we would be. It is one thing to disagree on matters of doctrine, theology, biblical interpretation, or worship style. God’s church has done this from the very beginning.
            The problem is that when it comes to matters of genuine disagreement, rather than lovingly seek Christ amid our varied understandings of the Christian life, all-too-often we entrench ourselves into controlling positions of absolutist authority and end up shouting at one another rather than loving one another.
            Honestly, much of the world sees this controlling, judgmental, and exceptionally unloving behavior of Christians and assumes that the true faith of Christianity is all about harsh control, hateful judgment, and presumptive self-righteousness. The disciples never came to Christ because he judged, controlled, or otherwise shamed them into fear-filled obedience. Rather, Christ loved them and modeled that love in compassionate service and grace.
            Consider the night he was betrayed. Before he ever broke the bread and blessed the cup that Christians remember in communion, he humbled himself before them. Before they had the opportunity to betray, abandon, or deny him, he washed their filthy feet and blessed them. Before he commanded them to love and prayed for God to empower them in that love, he modeled that love.
            Christians will disagree. Even the twelve disciples did not always get along. Yet, it was when they argued over their own greatness or fussed about who would be closer to Jesus’ side that our Lord reprimanded them. What is the difference when Christians fight amongst one another over biblical interpretations and faithful experiences of God’s amazing blessings?
            Part of the miracle of the first Christian Pentecost as told in Acts 2 was the fact that God’s message of salvation met every person right where they were in terms they could easily understand. The beauty of Christianity’s amazing diversity is that God is still doing it. Yet, rather than putting down other believers because their experience of God’s grace is profoundly different from our own, it is time we claim the prayerful words of Jesus Christ and affirm that God’s goodness is not confined to any single experience of Christ. It is experienced in loving one another as Christ first loved each of us!