By Mike Coyner
Sometimes you hear something, and you just want to say “A-ha!”
I felt way that recently when I was a part of conversation with some of my judicatory colleagues here in Indiana. I heard Episcopal Bishop Cate Waynick say, “Jesus did not command us to agree with each other, Jesus commanded us to love one another.” Immediately I knew she was right, and her insight is so helpful in our current situation in our United Methodist Church and in the nation in general. We somehow have confused the commandment of Jesus found in the Gospel of John where Jesus says he is giving us a new commandment – that we love one another. We have confused that commandment with our own human desire to find agreement, uniformity, and religious certainty. Instead of obeying the command that we love one another, we keep trying to impose upon one another a false religion of agreement.
Seeking agreement and uniformity is a human effort to glorify our opinions and our human “wisdom” over the freedom of faith that Jesus teaches us. More than once Jesus warned against trying to impose our human designs over God’s plan. God’s plan is summarized in the two commandments that Jesus quoted when he was quizzed on the topic. He quoted the Command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and then he added that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Love. No mention of agreement.Are there any basic, foundational, even fundamental beliefs for all Christians? Yes, of course, and the early church summarized those in one affirmation: Jesus Christ is Lord. The church over the centuries has added other faith affirmations in various creeds and statements of doctrine. But none of those should supplant the actual command of Jesus: “love one another as I have loved you.” So how did Jesus love? Unconditionally. Did he approve of every human activity? Of course not, and he was most critical of religious hypocrisy. But nothing … nothing can supplant his only “new commandment” (his words) that we love one another.
Jesus did not command us to agree with one another; Jesus commanded us to love one another.
Mike Coyner is bishop of the Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church. Reprinted from INUMC.org. Image: Pexels.