Love and Love Again
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
"A new comandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." - John 13:13,35
Once I visited a monastery that did not belong to the Episcopal Church. There was a monk in the gift shop who asked me about my religion. I said I was an Episcopalian. He looked puzzled and asked, “Protestant?” I said, “I guess you could say that.” “Heretic,” he said. “You are a heretic.” At first, I thought he was joking but he repeated again, “Heretic... If you attend our service, you cannot be with us in the main part of the church. You have to sit in the back.” I guess the back of the church was reserved for heretics like me. I must say I felt unwelcomed, I was hurt and disappointed and maybe even angry. I could have ended the conversation there by not saying anything, or I could choose to respond in anger by either engaging in an argument, or lash out at him. But I held my tongue. I saw that he was making prayer beads. I asked him if he was selling his beads and he said he was selling it along with the ones that other monks made. I said I want to buy one that he himself specifically made, not the one another had made. I wanted to have his prayer beads so I could pray with it, and with it, pray for him. Honestly it would be hard for me to like him or even love him but I must remember that we are both baptized in Christ and so we are brothers and nothing will change that. Whatever divides us is not more powerful than the love of Christ that unites us. So it is my obligation to love him and pray for him even perhaps it would be so difficult to do.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, his church, that they ought to love one another. Just look around you today. I am sure that you will identify people that you like or love. And you will also find people who irritate or annoy you, people who you dislike, or you rather not talk to. Maybe I am one of them. Come on now. Be honest. It’s okay. It is just part of our humanity.
I have said over and over in this church that Christian love is not natural because our nature seeks to love only those we like or find loveable- like members of our family or circle of acquaintances and friends. Though we talk about Church as a family, the Church is not like our family or friends in that in Church we are with some people who we would normally not choose to associate with. But for whatever reason known to God alone, we are brought together here and now- in our diversity and differences. Whatever differences there are, whatever conflicts we have, we are enjoined by Christ to show respect or care, or at the very least not to do any harm. By virtue of our baptism, we are all members of the Body of Christ, and there is Christ in all of us, and we are to honor Christ that we seek in each other. That is why with that monk who offended me to a high degree, I must recognize him to be my brother in Christ. Even in our profound disagreement, this monk at the very least shows me the Christ who commands me, “Love your enemies.”
If we want to proclaim the Gospel readily outside of here, to the world, the world will surely watch us. The world will look at how we behave towards one another. The world is watching as to how we treat one another. If we cannot treat one another with care, nurture respect and mercy, then why would outsiders be want to be part of us? And if we can’t treat one another nicely when we know each other for a long time, then they would wonder how we would treat them who we have NOT known for a long time.
Jesus tells us today that the authentic mark of the Church is not how many people it has, or what good programs it offer, but the mark of the true Church of Christ is that four letter word- “love.” Love one another as I have loved you. How do we do that? At the very least, if we find someone unlikeable or unlovable, do no harm to that person. The first rule is non-violence- we don’t gossip about that person, we don’t say hurtful words to that person. The other thing that helps me deal with difficult people in life each day is to pick- for today, and each day, a person I would find mildly annoying, and I will say a prayer for that person. If by grace I am so inspired, I might even pick out a person who is deeply offensive to me, and I will commend him to God. Perhaps by praying for that person, and remembering that underneath the difficult façade is a brother and sister in Christ. Easy? No. Hard? Definitely.
©2017 Noel E. Bordador
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