Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.
– 1 Peter 4.8
Over the past few days, I have been in conversations with folks I deeply love but disagree with. These disagreements are ongoing and unfortunately still haven’t been resolved. That said, the parties involved in the conversations came to them from a place of genuine love for one another. The results of these conversations, while fruitless in resolving the disagreement, were fruitful in building up the body of Christ.
This may not seem possible but its true. We live in deeply divided times. There are folks in the media world talking about the possibility of a second civil war. The recent supreme court nomination process was deeply dividing for vast numbers of Americans regardless of party affiliation. There seem to be growing forces driving and encouraging division and separating us into “us versus them” camps. Of course, this is par for the course in an election season when people are attempting to win us over to their side, candidate, issue, etc.
So again, coming back to these conversations about difficult issues, I’m so thankful for the church. I am thankful we have guidance within scripture for how we are to be together. I’m thankful we worship a God of love. As 1 John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” If we have lost love in our fellowship, we are lost.
Peter, as Christ’s disciple, gives a good word to the church. “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Now, please don’t hear this as “let’s just all get along” or even worse “let’s all just be happy and pretend there aren’t disagreements”. We can deeply love one another and still be angry, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated.
I think of my parenting as an example. I can be deeply angry at my son Jackson for instance. If he hurts his brother he knows I will be angry with him. Yet, he never doubts my love for him. He never doubts because of the way in which I express my anger. I tell him I’m angry with my words and actions. He understands the source of my anger and fundamentally agrees with it being an angering thing to have a child hurt, even when that hurt is from another one of my children.
This is anger that builds us our family. It creates a culture of kindness in our family and makes expectations clear. That said, if I expressed my anger in a different way, say striking, shoving, or verbally attacking out of this anger, it would strengthen our family. In fact, it would sow more anger into our family through Jackson’s anger at me for hurting him. It would rob Jackson of the opportunity to understand my anger and it also robs him of the chance to agree that is bad for him to hurt his brother. He would be trapped in his anger at me.
Coming back to love. I love both my boys with a passion I could not imagine prior to having them. Because of that love, I control my response in anger to a response that builds up our family. It is good and healthy to express emotion in ways that fundamentally build up the body. The base of all of it, however, has to be love. If we don’t love, we can’t interact. We are a community of many different personalities and backgrounds. If we are going to be real, we are going to have friction because of this reality. If we love, it will provide lubrication to help the rough parts of our selves to slide by each other. As we stay in community with each other those rough edges are healed and smoothed out.
So if we think about our goal here, let’s think about stones on a beach of Lake Superior. Every stone has had its rough edges smoothed through its interactions with the other stones around it. I find these stones beautiful. That is what Christ is doing with us through the church. Refining us into beautiful creations who’s very lives reflect the gospel. May we embrace this reality and willingly give up our rough edges for Christ’s sake!
In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Jeremiah Knabe
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