When you hang out with Jesus, amazing and strange things happen. Just ask Peter, James, and John. One time they went on a hike with Jesus – and Jesus started glowing! If that weren’t strange enough, Moses and Elijah showed up too! Peter was so blown away by this that Scripture says, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:6).
What can you say in a moment like that? Well, God had something to say, and it was the point of the moment. God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7) The next verse says, “Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.”
This was the point of the transfiguration. God was teaching Jesus’ apostles (and us) that Jesus was greater than Moses and Elijah, who represented the law and the prophets. From now on, God expected them (and us) to listen to Jesus. And when Jesus is the only one left standing before Peter, James, and John the message was clear: Jesus trumps the traditions of the past, and He is the only one you should follow.
And what command did Jesus identify as the greatest to follow? To love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-40). According to Jesus, those commands sum up the law and the prophets.
So, the one who is greater than the law and the prophets says that the greatest command is to love.
This was one of the themes that Dr. Patrick Mead emphasized in Alameda’s annual Ray Evans Seminar this past weekend. But what really impressed me about Patrick was how he truly lives out what he preaches. And it can’t be easy for him. Here’s why…
For whatever reason, Patrick has become a lightning rod for many in our fellowship of churches of Christ. Some people don’t agree with him on certain issues, which, in and of itself, is fine. The problem is that many of these people handle these disagreements in hateful, immature ways. They send him nasty notes and emails. They spread gossip and venom on social media that is designed to embarrass and “bring down” Patrick. They try to engage with him from a posture of anger. Instead of attempting to have a mature discussion centered around issues, many of these people react emotionally, lob unsubstantiated accusations, and resort to name-calling.
The irony is that all of this is more wrong than anything they accuse Patrick of doing or teaching. They feel as if Patrick is threatening their traditions, and their response is to silence him at all costs. Think about that. In the transfiguration of Jesus, God made it clear that Jesus trumps tradition; and Jesus specifically said that love trumps law. So, Patrick’s critics have somehow rationalized that it is alright to violate the teachings of Jesus because they think Patrick is violating their traditions. This doesn’t make sense. And it needs to stop.
This kind of behavior is doing great damage to our witness for Christ as a fellowship, and if we care at all about being a church that reflects Christ to our communities we will seek to put a stop to the un-Christlike attitudes and behaviors of our brothers and sisters who think it’s alright to tear down good men and women who are doing faithful ministry for the Kingdom of God. And the way to stop it is to stop listening to rumors, stop spreading gossip, and stop giving people who are not loving a platform.
By the way, do you know how Patrick responds to his critics? He tries to love them because that’s what Jesus said to do. He tries to seek the best in them because that’s what a loving brother does for his family.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13 the apostle Paul writes, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
I sometimes wonder if we really believe the teaching of that verse. Because many times we act as if there are things greater than love. But that’s not what Jesus taught.
No matter what you may think about a person, no matter how wrong you may think someone is, as a Christ-follower you are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), and to be known for your love (John 13:35).
1 John 3:14 says that “anyone who does not love remains in death,” meaning that sin and death still have their clutches around you if you have not become a loving person. Christ moves us toward love. If we cannot find a way to love those we disagree with or those who are different than us, can we really say that we are following Christ?
We, in churches of Christ, are better than what we sometimes show; and we can be better at loving others. So, let’s make that our aim. Let’s seek with all of our hearts to be known as a fellowship who not only loves the Word of God but also loves our communities and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s root for one another, instead of tearing each other down. Let’s pray for one another, instead of wishing each other ill. Let’s champion our sister congregations, instead of being jealous or suspicious of them. Wouldn’t that be a better way to use our time, energy, and resources? Wouldn’t that be a better reflection of Christ to the world around us?
“And the greatest of these is love” – period.