The Jesus story has been hijacked. Now, I know: this isn’t news to you. For decades now, a particular version of the Jesus story has dominated, and I’ll spare you the retelling of it one more time. You might have grown up with this version of the Jesus story. For many of us, our pulse quickens as we hear it -- it’s the version where those who are lucky enough to get a pass through the pearly gates, and the rest of humanity is subject to eternal fire...
A few weeks ago, a few from a far wing of this fiery theology raised the heat even further. Christians around the world were sickened as we literally witnessed the horns of evil forcing its way into our nation’s capital, whipping Christian flags in the air, pumping signs bearing Jesus’ name, and even wearing apparel with phrases like, “God, Guns, and Trump.” We watched in horror that despicable scene and said to ourselves -
“These people don’t know the same Jesus story I know.
I know a story where Jesus commands us to love above all else.
I know a story that tells us that God is love.
And this is not what love does.
This is not what love does.”
On a gut level, what you and I were feeling was an innate sense of St. Augustine’s famous Rule of Love. St. Augustine articulates this rule in his first century writing, On Christian Doctrine, saying “So anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up a double love of God and neighbour, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.”
In other words, any interpretation of scripture -- or any theology -- that does not produce love of God and neighbor, simply cannot stand. This Rule of Love is the litmus test by which we can judge all our Biblical interpretation. If our theology leads us to shame our neighbor, it does not stand up to the Rule of Love. If our reading of scripture causes us to back away from God in dread, it does not stand up to the Rule of Love.
This week, our country inaugurated a new administration into the White House. It is my deepest prayer, no matter our political affiliation or opinions, that this administration follows this Rule of Love. I pray that these leaders might hold up their words, actions, and policies up to this litmus test: are we duly increasing our country’s love for God/Universe/Creation and for neighbor? Or are we instead increasing division, strife, and fear?
Please dear ones, pray for our country -- that it be filled with more love in the days ahead, and pray that this love begins with us.