As a teacher I have been known to give assignments where the grading was simple: if you did the assignment you got a 100. If you didn’t do the assignment, you got a zero. It might be a one question quiz; it might be a one question opinion question, but it’s designed to show the thinking of the student. Sadly, many, given a simple assignment like that, won’t even complete that simple assignment.
Jesus actually created a simple test for those who claimed to be His followers. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) So the question is very simple: do you love other disciples of Jesus Christ. It sounds simple at first. But then I begin to think about that and I realize that I don’t even always love all the people in my own church.
Some of the people in my church aren’t loveable. What’s worse is, they might consider me the same. I need to love them anyway. Some followers of Jesus belong to other churches and different denominations. If I take Jesus seriously, I must love them anyway. Some of those people believe the wrong way. Jesus would tell me to love them anyway. Some people who claim to follow Jesus actually do things that I know are wrong. Still no loopholes – love them anyway.
All that love doesn’t mean that we can’t disagree, or even argue. It doesn’t mean that we don’t try to correct those who are wrong. As a parent, when my children were wrong, I sought to correct them. As an adult, I’ve had friends who care about me who have sought to guide me when they thought I was going astray. Even in their rebuke, though, I could feel their love. When dealing with disagreements the big question is attitude. Do we seek to justify ourselves? Do we seek to show our superiority? In those cases, we aren’t showing love. When we seek to arrive at God’s answer to a situation through that discussion, then we are working out of love.
Lord God, You have shown me such great love even when I didn’t deserve it. I am amazed at the depth of Your love. Let me return that love. Help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ even when they are wrong. Let me learn to listen to them so that if I am wrong, I can learn from them also.