Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” This is not an easy thing to do. We have a hard enough time loving each other.
I’m a preacher’s kid. I went to church for the first time when I was six days old. One of the complaints I have heard all these years from folks who end up leaving the church is that the people fight too much. This is not new but it is still an issue in many, many churches.
Brennan Manning, an evangelical writer, preacher, scholar, theologian, recovering alcoholic and in his own words, a wandering vagabond preacher, wrote an open letter to the church in America. He didn’t write to any particular denomination or congregation. He wrote to every church, to every gathering of Christians across the land. He did not mince words:
We would be known as Jesus’ followers not because we are chaste, celibate, honest, sober, or respectable; not because we are church-going, Bible-toting or Psalm-singing: We would be recognized as disciples primarily by our deep and delicate respect for one another, our cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality.
Manning’s phrase, “the sacred dimension of the human personality,” is an academic way of saying that every person you encounter in this world is a child of God. When Jesus instructs us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he is inviting us to follow him in a sacred and holy way, one that has little to do with proper belief and everything to do with love. When we learn to love one another, when we practice prayer for those who persecute us, we are acting and behaving like followers of Jesus.
The hymn “We Are One in The Spirit” may not win any awards for musicality but its simple message communicates a deep truth. The chorus concludes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Simple, profound and yet, still not fully tried. Let’s pray together for the courage to follow Jesus in the ways of love.
Grace and peace to you,