May 19

John 13:34-35

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” vs. 35

During those exciting first centuries of the Church’s existence apostles and evangelists went all over the Mediterranean world and beyond proclaiming the powerful message of God’s universal grace and unconditional love. Thousands were convicted by the Spirit and were baptized into the Body of Christ. And then the leaders of these fledgling faith communities, anxious about questions of power and influence, began to worry about matters of doctrine and definition. Creeds were adopted, heresies defined, and heretics excluded. In a heartbeat those credal statements became the defining standards of the Church and the faithful were taught that orthodox beliefs were the exclusive mark of discipleship. This shift didn’t happen overnight but once the pattern was established it has proved to be remarkably resilient. The result has been a proliferation of denominations most of which have claimed to be the true manifestation of the Church on earth. The loss of energy and momentum has been breathtaking and the image of the Church has been sullied. In our time there have been remarkable signs of hope as more and more followers of Jesus reclaim their identity as lovers. We might never agree with one another about matters of doctrine but we can certainly be bound together by love. It’s as we put aside our differences and embrace love that we discover our true identity as the Light of Christ.

Thought for the Day: How do I deal with those who don’t believe as I do?

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