When he had gone out, Jesus, said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so I now say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
If I had to choose one piece of scripture that encapsulates my Christian faith, well, it would be difficult. But this passage from John would definitely be in the running. Here, Jesus sums up for us all that we need to know about what it means to be his disciples - we are to love one another as he has loved us. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
It is just that simple. And it is just that difficult. If we look at the way the church universal and the Christian people live out our faith today, in a lot of ways we are falling very short of this commandment Jesus gave us. Take my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, for example. We have been in the secular news lately for our renewed stance on our ban against clergy performing same-sex marriage and our ban on any "self avowed practicing homosexuals" practicing ministry.
What the public sees is a group of people fighting bitterly with each other over just a few small pieces of scripture. What the public doesn't necessarily see are the even more bitter and heart wrenching fights and hurtful words and actions that take place behind the scenes. By any measure, we are not doing a good job of loving one another as Jesus loved us. I don't think anyone could look at us right now and see we are disciples of Jesus Christ by our love. We aren't even doing a good job of loving those inside our church walls, let alone those on the outside we claim we seek to reach with God's love.
The UMC is struggling right now, in large part because I think we pay too much attention to the wrong parts of scripture. We need to get back to basics, to this singular commandment Christ gave us - to love one another as he loved us. This is the lens through which we should interpret all scripture, determine all church doctrine, and order our practice of ministry. In the end, when I stand before God, I want to be able to share who I loved in the name of Jesus Christ, not who I excluded.
Oh God, who is love, help us to let this commandment from Jesus Christ live in our hearts. We pray that you open our eyes to see what your love looks like in this world, without our self-imposed boundaries and exclusions. Help us to love all we encounter, just as you love all of us. Amen.