John 13:21-38; 2 Chronicles 19; Psalm 78:38-55
Many years ago, a car company had a commercial to highlight discounts on their cars. In order to get the discount, though, you had to go down to the store and guess the number of Japanese Snow Peas in a jar placed in the local dealership. In the commercial we saw the tense moment when a customer looked at the jar to make his guess. As he looked up, you could tell that he had questions. “There’s only one snow pea in the jar,” he said trying to figure out what was going on. Immediately, the whole car dealership went into celebration mode and the salesman shouted out “Winner! Winner!” The obvious point was that the discount, or the rebate, was available to anyone.
Obviously, the company was doing a great job of using the idea that people like to win something to draw in customers; well that, and humor. Since we like to laugh and we like to win, we showed up and bought cars. In the back of our minds, we were probably thinking, “I can’t believe it’s that easy.” There’s a similar test for Christians. How do you know that someone else is a disciple of Jesus Christ? The Pharisees had an “easy” 613 question test. If you followed all those laws, they you were one of them. Jesus described a one question test which appears to be harder to understand than you might guess. “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)
We have a multitude of denominations in the Christian world. Each one of them could give you lists of reasons of why they’re right, and everyone else is wrong. We look at this diversity and wonder how it is that we would be able to get along. Yet among the disciples of Jesus were fishermen, religious folks, people willing to die to overthrow the Romans, and those who worked with the Romans. Jesus gave these people this test, and the result was a world turned upside down, or rather, rightside up. The disciples, and the Christians they taught, had this teaching ringing in their hearts and minds as they shared the gospel. They dealt with people from different cultural backgrounds as the gospel spread and added a few ideas to this simple test, but this test from Jesus is still the gold standard for disciples: do we love each other?
“I know, it sounds simple, but you know those <insert your favorite demonized denomination here>. They don’t believe right,” or perhaps “They don’t act right.” Yep, that’s true. The denomination that I am a part of has a terrible history, doesn’t get everything right in their understanding of the Bible, and sometimes doesn’t act in a loving manner. Just like yours. My responsibility is not to spend half of my life telling you how wrong you are, or listen to you telling me how wrong I am, my responsibility is to love you no matter what. Now, here’s where it gets tricky. How do we know who to love? I mean, some people CLAIM to be Christians, but we know that their lives don’t really reflect that, right? Besides, I’ve heard them speak and their beliefs don’t approach Christianity in the least. As I contemplated my options about that kind of situation, I came to a startling conclusion: I need to love them anyway. As startling as this conclusion may be, the truth is that Jesus loved everyone. He didn’t come to judge, He came to show God’s love. You know, that love that He showed when He loved us while we were yet sinners? Now, if God wants to show love to people who are separated from Him, and we’re supposed to do the same, how much more should we show love to those who claim to follow Him? We can discuss our differences if we want, but we should always love brothers and sisters in Christ.
O Lord, it’s so easy to look at differences and want to argue and be right. Remind me that to be right, I have to be loving.