The Rule Book is the appeal of many denominations today. It may be the canon of church law, the United Methodist book of Discipline, or even the laws of the Bible. Whatever the case, the rule book is what most Christian leaders refer to in some way or other. I suppose such appeals are necessary to provide a “framework” for our activities in the church. Mostly, however, the rule book becomes the way we hamstring the work. The rules can be as much a frustration for one’s self as it can be a satisfying club to use on one’s adversaries.
The word “adversary” may be the problem here. The Hebrew phrase “ha’satan” meaning “the adversary” is where we draw the proper name Satan for the one who opposes God. It is an easy step to take from my attempt to be on God’s side to those who think differently from me to being in league with the devil (or worse yet sold their souls). It is easy to forget that our God is one of love. And that God may even love the devil.
All followers of Jesus are bound by the “new commandment” from John 13:35. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(NRSV). In deed as well as in feeling and vocal affirmation, we are given a covenant of love to uphold and by which to live. Our only problem is that we often fear that Jesus had no idea what he was talking about.
We often imagine the worst possible outcomes from controversy. And yet, we often believe the worst possible scenario is that we may lose the debate, the election, the fight, or the standing we possess. We fail to realize that when we lose love for one another we Christians lose no matter how often we appear to win arguments. By losing the covenant of love we lose the happiness, the blessedness, or the beatified state to which we are called. Can we despise brother or sister in Christ and still properly love Christ?
Christians fell into the trap of wanting the approval of the world and the powers that be a long time ago. Too often we are debating which people of the world whose approval we want. And yes, I know, issues surrounding justice, life, and peace are important. My position is that these issues are only settled when we truly want to practice the new commandment Jesus gave all of his disciples.
Please heed these words. Love for God and humankind is more important than any other issue the church is involved in today.

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