A few weeks ago, a friend shared an internet graphic showing a blackboard listing various things that are banned according to the Bible. The list included shaving, gossip, eating shellfish or pork, wearing fabrics of mixed cloth, i.e. cotton polyester blends, and associating with women who are menstruating.
The point of the post was to remind us that we cannot cherry pick verses in the Bible to suit our own causes unless we are following all of the verses. This would be hard to do because the Bible contradicts itself more than 1,000 times.
What caught my attention was the graphic’s headline, “I wish more people preached about what the Bible loves than what the Bible hates.”
In this era of vitriolic rhetoric and sharply polarized beliefs, we seem to focus more on hate than love. We cannot find common ground or even manage to have a civil discussion on issues confronting us as a modern society. Radio and television commentators outdo each other with their shout-downs and condemnations, sometimes over ridiculous incidents.
We have lost sight of the big picture in our focus on the infinitesimal details. Our hearts have turned away from each other.
In three of the four Gospels, Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment. In Matthew, Mark and Luke he responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
He describes this as the greatest and first commandment. But then Jesus goes on to say that the second is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment that they love one another as Jesus has loved them.
Finally, in both Matthew and Luke, Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies and treat each other as we would want to be treated.
Jesus is all about love, not hate. Jesus did not use hate to get his way or to overpower those he disagreed with, except those who used religion to make money for themselves. Even on the cross, so cruelly and wrongfully put to death, he asked God to forgive his persecutors. Some will say Jesus preached “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
Actually he didn’t. The closest he got to that concept was to ask how we could criticize another for the speck in his eye, when we could not see the log in ours.
In its June 18 issue, the New Yorker published a profile of a conservative broadcaster who brought about the resignation of an advisor to a national politician. His war against the advisor, and he certainly called it a war, was not because the man was incompetent or even of the wrong political persuasion. It was because the advisor was openly gay. As the broadcaster waged his battle, he boasted about how much power he was gaining not just over the type of person he was attacking, but also over his own political party. “They will have to come to me” was the essence of his boast.
Although the broadcaster called himself a Christian, his actions did not match anything advocated by Jesus Christ. There was no love in his deeds, no concern for any harm he might be doing. He exalted in his power and what it would bring him in the future.
When we call ourselves Christians, our actions should mirror those of Christ and his commandments. Our actions should speak of love, of caring for our fellow human beings, even if we find it hard to tolerate them. It’s a huge task and challenge. But it is what Christ asks us to do, to find it in our hearts to love one another, and to treat each other as we would want to be treated. The world would be a much better place if we could do that.
Jody Gebhardt is the parish administrator for St. David’s Episcopal Church.
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