Happy New Year!
There are two considerations I keep coming back to whenever I try to deal with all this acrimony and divisiveness within the Christian community, and particularly in the â€œorthodoxy-warsâ€ going on within Anglicanism right now. By the way, I think we see in the problems overwhelming world Anglicanism a foretaste of what is coming for global Christianity – the fulfillment of Philip Jenkins’ forecast in his book, “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.” Perhaps…
Anyway, these battles between “conservative” and “liberal” camps (groups defy labeling, really) concerning morals, sexual issues, Biblical authority, interpretation, and application, and polity are truly prompting realignment within global Christianity. We will only know in hindsight who will be right, although in my opinion none of us are “right.”
Of course, the issue that has prompted all the acrimony and division within world Anglicanism is homosexuality, which then bleeds into greater issues of Biblical authority and application, our interface with contemporary culture, discipline, accountability, and the catholic nature of our Church – polity. This issue of what is and what can be accommodated concerning homosexuality and same-sex relationships is dividing all Christian groups, despite the certain claims from denominations or churches and their leaders that the issue is settled against homosexuals in THEIR churches, jurisdictions, or domains. Whether we like it or not, our ecclesial politics mirror our cultural politics – the wars wage on to the detriment of the call of and purpose of the Way of Christ.
What makes one a Christian? Who has the right to judge and determine how Christians should live – what God calls us to? Who is right and who is wrong? The endless debates and proclamations will continue forever. Yet, how should we live regardless of what others may say about us, be we conservative/liberal, gay/straight, Modernist/Post-Modernist, male/female, et.al.?
In my mind, at this particular time, there are two primary criteria/points we need to heed (I need to heed!) – for me these have become primary as my foundation for living out the Way of Christ.
1.) We know little, despite over 3,000 years of trying to know!
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (New International Version)
Since we know in part, we must be very careful to make too strong of a pronouncement concerning who is right and who is wrong. At any particular point in time, all of us can and will think or believe heretically, even in the midst of thinking we are right and think we can “prove” it. We grow, we mature, we experience life, and as we do we change our opinions and understandings. If any of us act and believe exactly the same way and thing as we did ten years ago, we are babes still suckling on spiritual milk rather than moving onto the meat, and we all know what Paul wrote about that!
We know in part, and we must come to a place of absolute humility!
2.) Jesus gave us the greatest commandment, a new commandment, which is really the summation of all the Law and the Prophets, but is not the Law.
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.â€™
“‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'” Mark 12:25-33
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9
(Romans 13:8-10 in Context)
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
(Galatians 5:13-15 in Context)
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” James 2:8
(James 2:7-9 in Context)
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
Well, we can debate until the cows come home whether Jesus meant to bring into the New Covenant the Moral Law of Moses or not (I don’t see how anyone could read Galatians or Hebrews and think that any of the laws of the Levitical Code are to be specifically obeyed by Christians under Grace as they were by Jews). Regardless, we are called to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves â€“ by and in faith. The rub comes when some believe that they must define and categorize how the demonstration of these two objects of our love is to be expressed or experienced. New demands are instituted as proof of whether we truly, honestly, and completely love God or not, and often we seem to forget about loving our neighbor. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we make new laws to prove to others our devotion to God.
So many of us cannot deal with ambiguity and cannot trust our neighbor that he or she is doing the best s/he can to honor God and neighbor. Some of us have to demand compliance and conformity to a particularly defined standard, and we then develop organizations to institutionalize these demands.
Live this way: I am to love God; I am to love neighbor; I must know in humility that at any moment I could be completely wrong because I see in part and will not know fully until I see Him face-to-face. If I can keep these two considerations in the forefront of my mind and intentions, I think I just might make it.
Happy New Year!