Erik Strandness responds to a recent debate between ‘Side A and...
Why is it sometimes not easy to love one another?
I have a memory of my first church, of particular services led by an ebullient African pastor. He was naive enough to believe that when the first chords of the chorus “Bind us together” were strummed we English-folk would be glad to join hands across the pews in a teeth-grinding (in my case) show of Christian love and togetherness. I have hated that song ever since. Confession over, forgiveness sought and given, so now we move on.
Some of my best friends are Christians. So are a few of my Moriarty’s, my Bluto’s, my Lex Luthor’s (unpack that lot of cultural references, if you will). It’s a shameful confession but a reality for many Christians. We get on with most of our Christian brothers and sisters, but there are a few we just don’t hit it off with and even one of two whom we wish would ... go to a different church! It doesn’t end there, certainly not for me, as there are some prominent Christians strutting their stuff out there who, speaking plainly, make my blood boil!
This can’t be right, can it? After all:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Surely there must be a loophole somewhere? If there’s ever a case for good honest scripture-twisting then this is it! Perhaps the context may help ...
It was at the Last Supper and Judas has just slunk off. Jesus was telling his disciples that he would soon be off to a place where they could not follow. Then he quoted the above verse, telling them to love one another. The next voice heard was Peter’s. He had a bee in his bonnet; he wanted to know more about where Jesus was going and was only stopped in his stride by Jesus’ prediction of his coming betrayal. The point being made here is that Peter didn’t query Jesus’ pronouncement about loving one another, so we can assume they were already doing this stuff.
So the mark of a disciple of Jesus is meant to be the love we show for each other. If every disciple of Jesus showed such love to every other disciple of Jesus, perhaps we would really start to show the World that there’s something different about these people.
Paul had more to say on this subject.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Here’s the deal. We disciples of Jesus must show our love for each other in humility, gentleness and patience as a good witness and for the sake of unity. Now’s there’s unity and there’s Unity. The Church of England has unity issues over the subject of women priests, over the issue of whether women have the mandate to represent Christ in their sacred rites. Well, this is a Greek issue, a result of Platonism, and a non-starter really as neither men nor women should represent Christ, as we all have access to Our Lord!
But it must never be unity at any cost. For there to be true Christian unity, it has to be based on truth. Sometimes, this is in short supply in the Christian World and there are some fellow brothers and sisters who really try our gentleness and patience, who perhaps provoke us to many ungodly thoughts.
Now, as someone working in the Christian media, I have had a chance to examine many prominent and influential ministries and I must confess that there are many dangerous Christians out there who tread a fine line on what is acceptable in terms of doctrine and/or behaviour. Two words that cry out to me are carnality and heresy, worldliness and bad theology. Do I really share a faith with people who promote prosperity or false prophecy or deny basic core principles of the faith? Are they really my brothers and sisters?
And there’s the rub. Who are my brothers and sisters? We are meant to show love and unity, but what about discernment?
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
This is a difficult one because not everything is as it seems. Believe it or not, not everyone who claims to be Christian is one. How do we discern this? Well, Scripture helps here. Let’s read the rest of the passage in Matthew.
By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:16-23)
The heart of this is the frightening statement:
Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
More next week.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.