Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fly on the wall

Jesus said to his disciples, not long before he gave his life up, that the world would know who belonged to him by their love for each other (see John 13:35). Sometimes I really wish I could be a fly on the wall of the world, objectively observing the Church - God's family - especially here where I live, in the U.S. I wonder what I would see (and I'd have to be quick in my observations because flies don't live very long). I wonder if it would be confusing, while also mysterious; lovely and inspiring, while also gut-wrenching and frustrating. Yes, I wish for more than a peek from this vantage point. But even sociologists know that being a part of the very thing you wish to observe is as tricky as skating on the thin ice of impossibility.

I can at times wager an educated guess at how the world observes those who claim to follow Jesus by their reactions toward us, which are sometimes accurate and sometimes not. Yet I've often thought, it must get very confusing to people, to see so many people belonging to so many different versions of the same religion, most of them not doing a great job at loving one another. Protestants not loving Catholics. Catholics not loving Baptists. Baptists not loving Pentecostals. Pentecostals not loving Lutherans. Lutherans not loving Methodists. Nondenominationalists not loving denominationalists. Emergents not loving fundamentalists. Republican Christians not loving Liberal Christians, and visa versa. Around and around we go.

I inwardly groan when someone, as in a non church-goer, asks me what kind of church I go to, and in effect, what "type" of Christian I am. Most of the time, they have no clue what the differences are in the terminologies used to describe churches, and quite frankly, neither do I, so I do a poor job of explaining. I think to myself, I don't belong to a club. I belong to the Church. Not a church - as in a local church, with or without a denomination - but the one and only Church. Why is it so imperative that I affiliate myself with just one, as if I were marking a ballot, when I just want to be known as someone who, in loving Jesus, also loves the rest of Jesus' family?

Jesus was certainly onto something. What a radical thing it would be if the world saw the Church loving each other, respecting each other, caring for each other's needs, preferring each other above themselves, above our doctrinal differences, yet still within the teachings of Jesus, the One we claim to share a love for. How can we really love people who haven't met Jesus yet, who don't know him, if we can't even love each other? Who would want to belong to a family whose loyalties were so divided?

Jesus also said we need to love each other as he loves us. That's a tall order, and certainly not one we can walk out in life without clinging to him. The more obsessed we are with him, the more naturally we love like him, as easily as breathing. That is my prayer for myself and for all who are in love with Jesus, who will follow him wherever he goes. That we would be so obsessed, so consumed with longing to know him, and in that obsession, be compelled to love each other. That the world would see, and that this love, which cannot be contained, would spill over and spread to every nook and cranny of every continent, every country, every city, every town and village, every highway and byway, every street and field, every mountain and desert, every home and every family, and every person. Everywhere. They will know us by our love.

No comments:

Post a Comment