“We love because God first loved us.”
1 John 4:19 (Common English Bible)
There is a delightful – and poignant – cartoon currently circulating on Facebook. Jesus is teaching his disciples on the side of a mountain. Jesus teaches, “Love one another.” The disciples begin to question Jesus. “What if people don’t agree with our interpretation of scripture? What do we do if someone doesn’t share our political ideology or agree with us on the important issues of the day?” Jesus continues, “Let me try again. Love one another.” Located in this cartoon is a powerful message for us all. Something has happened in our public discourse. Once, people could disagree politically, debate the pressing issues of the day, and then share a meal and laughter together. I miss that day, now largely gone. If you are honest, you miss it as well.
Recently, I sat in my office with someone who is both an elder of this church and a dear friend. He is a Republican and I am a Democrat. He has my highest admiration. Considerable wisdom and a kind and generous spirit mark his leadership on the church board. Occasionally we discuss with each other our differences in our political vision for our nation. The operative word here is, “discuss.” Civility, respect, and humility saturates our conversations. Both of us acknowledge that we could be wrong on any issue. Most importantly, we listen deeply to each other. We listen with anticipation that we may have our own thoughts made more expansive by a different viewpoint.
We also share a lament. We are sadden by how little kindness we now see among those who disagree. One political party vilifies another party. Democrats are Socialist and Republicans lack compassion. People fear expressing any opinion lest they become caught-up in verbal warfare. Worse, it is common today to question someone’s fidelity to the Christian faith if there is failure to think as we think. Again, we are a nation divided on itself. Hurtful rhetoric often becomes hate crimes. Imagine what has happened in our nation. Some believe that killing those who are different is a responsible course. Jesus continues, “Let me try again. Love one another.”
Perhaps, that is where we must begin. We begin by celebrating that, as Christians, what holds us together is our common confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Bound together by faith in Jesus Christ, we recognize that none of us has grasped the whole truth. The Apostle Paul, speaking of faith in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, says that what we now understand is like looking in a dark mirror. We can see something, but not everything. Somethings remain out of focus. “Love one another,” teaches Jesus. That includes our enemies, those who persecute us, and those who disagree with us. Those are the words of Jesus. Obedience is the mark of Christian character.