If We Loved One Another

From time to time at church we sing a particular hymn that has never failed to move me. The hymn is probably familiar only to the relatively small church culture from which I come, but I have long pondered its message and its applicability to me and to the people who have been and are around me. The hymn “By This Shall All Men Know,” cites from the following passage found in John 13:31-35: “So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

This passage has prompted a great deal of thought and reflection for many reasons, often deeply interrelated with the course of my own life. As it happens, today I happened to read a book on the Christian meaning of the Chronicles of Narnia, and the author made the following comment: “”We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” On earth we are always outside the beauty we observe. The glory of heaven is to shine with the same beauty that breaks our hearts on earth. Glory in the biblical sense isn’t merely brightness; it’s the brightness of honor, of accolade, of good report. Reepicheep’s obsessively cultivated honor is just a shadow of the honor he will exude in Aslan’s Country. For the truest and highest honor is the approbation of the Judge of Heaven and Earth: “Well done, good and faithful servant [1].””

This evening I happened to read some reflections of a friend of mine from the Pacific Northwest who had gone to live and work in Europe among a diverse group of people who stumbled over English together and came from a wide variety of places. Her comments struck me rather deeply relating to this same particular point, as she said that despite the fact that she was around people who were very different from her, that if one starts from love and respect for others, and concern for others as one’s neighbors, that one is able to work through the awkwardness and appreciate others and to be able to get along well with them. I know that as a person I bring a fair amount of awkwardness to any sort of interaction that I am in with other people, and I know that other people bring their own. While I have often tended to think that I was a patient and gentle and understanding person with others, even with those who are not always easy for me to deal with or who offend my own particular sensitivities, I have not always felt that others have been as understanding and patient with me, but I must admit there may be a great deal of self-deception in this view of my own understanding and that of others, since at times I may be a prisoner of my own perspective and may not know exactly how much others feel they are having to put up with from me. At any rate, it is an area in my own life that I do not feel goes particularly well. Is it that my own love is lacking that I am unable to work through the inevitable awkwardness of dealing with others, is it the love of others that is lacking towards me that makes them unwilling to make the effort it takes to get along well with me, or is it some combination of the two? It is not that I wish to affix blame, but rather I would want the problem to become less common, and to take what steps are necessary for it to do so, or to encourage such steps on those who, like me, are working to develop within them the nature and character of our common Heavenly Father and Elder Brother.

This evening, as I was sitting and chatting after dinner with the host of a charming dinner party today and a deacon in our local congregation, after everyone else had either gone to bed or returned home, we discussed some of the biggest difficulties faced by our particular denominational culture, something I have reflected about from time to time [2]. We discussed the difficulties people had in dealing with differences, and in the way that whenever people have a viewpoint they see as different, the result tends to be some kind of splitting and separation because people are often unable to see any difference in opinion as legitimate. Part of the benefit we have of fellowship with one another is to learn how to love others who are created in God’s image, but have a different aspect of that image than we do, so that we can better learn to appreciate the unity in diversity that God’s creation, including His human creation, manifests so obviously. Yet if we are looking for uniformity, we will never grasp the fullness of God’s appreciation of quirkiness and distinctiveness. If we loved one another, we would be able to look beyond the opinions and the differences in perspective and background and see the common desire to become more like God the Father and Jesus Christ. We would see that the same spirit can speak naturally in many different tongues, some of which we understand well because they are our own, and some of which others can relate to. We can accept people as God has made them, and encourage each other on our common walk towards the same Kingdom of God, instead of showing irritation and frustration whenever others do not see things exactly as we do, in a spirit of arrogant presumption that know all that there is to know and have nothing to learn and no place where we still have yet to grow. I do not know about you all, but I know I still have much to learn and much room to grow, and also much to teach and much to share. So does everyone else.

[1] Jonathan Rogers, The World According to Narnia (New York: Warner Faith, 2005), 73-74.

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/on-the-bi-directional-feedback-of-culture-and-membership-in-the-20th-and-21st-century-experience-of-the-church-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/a-church-of-god-bibliography/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/the-persistance-of-culture/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/a-modest-proposal-for-the-development-of-focused-education-programs-in-the-united-church-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/better-luck-next-year/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/longing-for-a-house-united/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/doctrinal-castles-made-of-sand/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/a-refracted-mirror-consensus-building-in-autocratic-regimes/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/leaving-20th-century-spiritual-egypt/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/back-on-track/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, E Pluribus Unim, History, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to If We Loved One Another

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