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The grand climax is almost upon them and they have not even a clue. It is Thursday evening, Jesus and his 12 disciples are in the upper room partaking of the mysteries of the Passover meal. It has been an unusual day in an extraordinary week. Jesus, in a small miracle that had almost become commonplace, makes arrangements for them to eat this meal in a new, private place. No one wants to lower themselves to wash the feet of their fellow disciples or even Jesus, so Jesus takes up the towel and basin. Peter refuses to have his feet washed until Jesus challenges his humility. Judas is revealed as the betrayer with a piece of bread dipped in a cup of wine.
Finally, it is time for Jesus to reveal his most important final truths; the things the disciples will need to know to carry them through the next hours and days; to lay the foundation for the early Christian Church. Jesus surveys his disciples and says these words: A new commandment I give 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. Jesus continues to share with deep passion and he circles back to this theme once again: Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. . . . . .This is my command: Love each other.
There it is: love everyone.
As we press forward toward Revival and Reformation, I find myself asking, “How are we doing with this command?” This may be the most fundamental problem we should be struggling with in Christianity and Adventism. Do we love the Catholics, the Methodists, the Baptists, the non-denominationals? Are we excited when their communities grow, when they gain converts? Do we wish them well or wish them failure? In our own Adventist faith community, how do we feel about those who interpret Scripture differently than we do or live out their faith differently than we do?
Since I started writing for Spectrum a few months ago, I have found the antipathy we have toward each other to be alarming and depressing. Look at what we fight over: the details of creation, the investigative judgment, the role of Sabbath in our lives, how we should deal with homosexuals, the strengths and weaknesses of our leadership. We even take shots at each other based on our political affiliations.
Jesus says: the world will know you are my disciples because of your love for each other. Somehow this has taken a back seat to the perceived necessity to protect our particular interpretation of Scripture and Ellen White, such that we end up with the conservatives wanting to drive from the church those who don’t have proper theology. The liberals are no more virtuous: they have disdain for conservatives for their rigid, unenlightened beliefs. If I support the ideas if the Tea Party or oppose illegal immigration or president Obama’s health care plan, I am a racist. If I do not hate and want to drive from the church those who have questions about six days and six thousand years, then I too become the enemy. Is this really what Jesus meant when he said we will be known by our love?
We often use the metaphor of family to describe the church. Some still use the Radical Reformation terms "brother" and "sister" to describe fellow church members. In Elder Wilson’s sermon at Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC) this past holiday season he uses the term “church family” to describe the local church. I find myself wondering what kind of family this is. In my own family there are Seventh-day Adventists, Sunday-keeping Christians, and atheists. Some are a lot like me and easy to get along with. Some are very different from me and still easy to get along with. There are also those who are incredibly difficult to get along with, even downright aggravating. (If you are a family member reading this, I am not talking about you.) Yet, for all of that, they are my family. I love them. I care for them. I long to be close to them. The last thing I want to do is to hurt them or drive them from my family.
Don’t get me wrong, theology and practice are important. There are real differences, and we can and should be talking about those differences, we should be struggling together with them. We will never all see eye to eye on many things, but I find it disheartening that we seem so willing so eager to drive wedges between ourselves and those who see things differently. It is hard for me to fathom that we take Revival and Reformation seriously and are also so eager to do damage to our brothers. find it outrageous that we plead with God for the pouring out of the Latter Rain while displaying so much lack of love. I don’t know how it is for you, but my theology today is not the same as it was five years ago and it is even more different then it was ten or fifteen years ago. I have grown in my understanding of Scripture; I have grown in my relationship with God. There are new discoveries I have made and some things I had to unlearn.
Do we not owe it to our brothers and sisters to allow them grow as they travel their Christian journey? Can we love while also offering gentle suggestions and ideas? Or, does Jesus call us to offer condemnation and ridicule when they have different ideas, either conservative or liberal?
As I pray for revival and reformation, I pray that God will start by softening our hearts like Jesus did in that upper room. Without kneeling before that new command, I fear that we stand no chance.
-Steve Moran is a member of the Central California Executive Committee.
Image: Angel of the Apocalypse by John M. McDowell, Ph.D.,