A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.John 15:12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.John 15:17
These things I command you, that ye love one another.
If you look at the times the word "command" was about Jesus, it most always refers to Jesus giving a specific instruction to a specific person. At other times, Jesus referred to the commandments of Moses (quite telling, that phrase). These are the only three instances where Jesus specifically says that this is a command!
I find that very significant.
As a parent, I was told that first time obedience was something I should demand from my children because God demands it from us all. Well, that's hardly true. It's funny how we flatter ourselves with that one. We rarely obey God at all. Most Christians are passive-aggressive snots, doing all kinds of things God never asked us to do while ignoring the things He plainly asked us to do, and then whining that God doesn't appreciate all we do for him. Seriously, one verse by the apostle Paul about "don't neglect to gather together with other Christians" has morphed into this entire religious industry where people feel really dedicated to God if they show up once or twice a week. Jesus never commanded that. His only command, given three times according to the apostle John, is completely ignored. But attend church? You betcha! It's considered the mark of a "true disciple".
The other reason I was told to demand first time obedience from my children is far more plausible, but still falls short. My children should always obey immediately because otherwise if their safety requires instant obedience, they could be harmed. Think of the scenario of a child chasing a butterfly. The butterfly heads into the road, the child follows. You see a car coming, and yell out...what, exactly? The child's name? Advocates of first time obedience paint the scenario that way, and your prone-to-dawdle child keeps going and is run over. Tragedy, all because you (bad parent) did not demand first time obedience.
In reality, if you see a car coming, everything about the way you speak to your child should change: pitch, volume, content. "Stop!!!!" should come blasting out of your mouth as you run to where your child is about to cross the road. And that is exactly the way communication works: the urgency of a command is pretty apparent in real life. "Stop!" because your child is in imminent physical danger is conveyed in a very different way than, "Stop!" when a child is pulling on your skirt while you are talking with a grown-up and very different from the "Stop!" gasped out between giggles when your child's antics are so hilarious you can't catch your breath from all the laughter those antics have generated in mom's belly. And so it should be.
All this to say, if something is really way more important than any other instruction a child may be given, there needs to be some way to make that clear. All directions are not of equal importance. Whether or not a child brushes his teeth one particular morning is not nearly as important as that he NOT EVER help strangers look for lost puppies. We have ways of making that clear. When Jesus says plainly, This is a command, that is exactly what is happening.
This is the most important thing: Love one another.
The most important thing is not "go to church". The most important thing is not, "give ten per cent of all you earn to the local church". The most important thing is not, "Defend a six day creation scenario". The most important thing is not, "Spend your life looking as righteous as you possibly can". The only direction issued with the precursor this is a COMMAND is the imperative to love one another as I have loved you.
Of course Christians are no different that the lawyer recorded in the tenth chapter of Luke (Luke 10:25 to be exact). Define "one another" Jesus. Surely we don't have to love everyone. At this point, Jesus has already given the Sermon on the Mount, in which he tells everyone to love even their enemies and do them good! The law has directed people to love their neighbor for centuries. But love is pretty darn demanding. That lawyer was looking for an out. Christians today are looking for an out, too.
The excuses are myriad. I have read Christian leaders teach that we don't have to love our enemies, because that was a command given before the death and resurrection of Christ, to Jews gathered to listen to Jesus speak. Slippery little sucker, these Christians. Fundamentalists teach that since Jesus also said "If you love me, you'll keep my commandments" AND they have redefined Jesus to mean "the Bible", they are actually loving God and loving their brothers/neighbors by keeping whichever of the thousands upon thousands of directive in the Bible suits their proclivities. You don't feel loved when you're neighbor gets up on Sunday morning and goes to church? Well, that's what fundamentalists have redefined to mean they are "obeying Jesus" ergo "loving you". Like a kid who starts picking up his toys when you ask him to get ready for bed, that's the level of "obedience" most of the Christian church is into. They will do what pleases them when it pleases them, but they will call it obedience and protest that they are model children if you call them on it.
Which brings me back around to the topic: the commands of Christ. Clearly the single most important thing was that we love one another as Christ loves us. I admit I am at an advantage here, as I have come face to face with the love of God in a way not everyone experiences. That love is all-surpassing, all-inclusive, so pure and good that not even Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama got there (though they are certainly closer than I have managed so far!). It is a love, a L-O-V-E that is, well, Divine. It knows no bounds, never turns anyone down, and I am completely convinced will forgive anyone of anything. That Love is out of this world.
So who is "one another"? For arguments' sake, I will limit "one another" to mean other people who love Jesus. You know, Christian youth raised in Christian homes who grew up memorizing Bible verses, going to AWANA, having family devotions and praying morning, noon and night. True Christians, who go to church every Sunday and set aside ten per cent of even their childhood allowance for the local church. Even narrowing the definition of "one another" down that very exclusive group, I ran into a problem.
You see, I was taught that homosexuality was a choice, and a sinful choice. Coming out gay was like coming out a liar, a con man, a committed professional thief. I didn't come up with this idea on my own. I was taught it in church. And look-see, right there in the Bible, were several places that condemned homosexuality: under Jewish law, and Paul's description of the sinful condition. Other references people used to condemn homosexuals were suspect,but I grudgingly admitted those verses were in the Bible and seemed to condemn homosexuality.
(The violent gang rape that the people of Sodom threatened the angels with was wrong because the angels appeared as men? Seriously? Violent gang rape is okay as long as the victim is a woman? That doesn't sit well with the character, words, life of Christ. REJECT! The passage in Revelations that "homosexuals" will be excluded from the love of God? That word is "porneo" and was originally translated as whore-monger i.e. pimps who enslave people of both genders in the sex trade! That is as far from a healthy relationship as one can get, and the gender of the people involved is irrelevant. REJECT!)
And so I grew to believe that gay people were people outside the Christian faith, who were choosing to act in certain ways that for some reason indicated that they did not love God. Though I didn't really understand it, I accepted it. It was "in the Bible".
And then reality broke through. I love it when God does that, breaks through my false religious notions with a good dose of reality. That reality, that Christians who love Jesus, who had never been abused, had never been exposed to the so-called "gay agenda", children from committed Christian home schooling families, are also gay, blew me away. Blew. Me. Away.
See, there is no command to reject gay people, but there is a command to unconditionally, without reservation, lavish acceptance, compassion, support and welcome (how Jesus loves me) on my fellow believers.
It's a command. It's non-negotiable. And there is a whole lot of actions and attitudes encompassed in the words "love as I have loved you".
Jesus listens to me as I pour my heart out in prayer. Therefore I need to listen to my fellow believer as they pour their heart out to me. Jesus is so compassionate to me when I am in emotional distress. Therefore I must show compassion to my fellow believers who are in any emotional distress. Jesus responds to my prayers by meeting my needs. Therefore I must respond to my fellow believers by attempting to meet their need.
It's non-negotiable. It's a command.
My brother in Christ, Justin over at The Gay Christian Network rocked my world and opened my eyes to the reality that "one another"s are sometimes gay. As I listened to my brothers and sisters in Christ share their stories on the video Through My Eyes, suddenly I knew there was only ONE truly Christian response to homosexuality. That would be the same response we have to heterosexuality. We should unconditionally love and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ as the people they are created. As Christ loves me, which is amazingly and overwhelmingly lavish, I am to love my fellow believers. All of them.
I feel so strongly about this, that if anyone wants to privately e-mail me your address, I will purchase a copy of this DVD for you and have it sent to your address. Email me at: to(underscore)shadowspring(at)yahoo(dot)com.
It's time we quit pretending to obey Jesus while pleasing ourselves, and get down to the one command He was so serious about that he actually called it a command.
Peace to all who read here.