This Sunday, the featured reading from Acts is the story of Peter preaching at Cornelius, a gentile’s house. It is a story that speaks to us about what happens when we allow ourselves to be on God’s side and not in God’s way. The Gospel text concludes with Jesus saying: “A New commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
As I pondered these two passages, I couldn’t help but think how often we are so legalistic in following the letter of the law when it comes to the Bible that we fail to live and act in love; which is the greatest commandment. Don’t get me wrong. We need our laws. Laws tell us what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. That’s fine when it comes to our public laws. Those laws can dictate to us what we can and cannot do but those laws are powerless to dictate to us what we think and what we feel.
Therefore, laws can only go so far in a faith journey. When Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you,” He is speaking those words within the context of community law. When the disciples, or the Jews, talked about commandments they were discussing laws for acceptable behavior in society. Maybe that’s why they didn’t get it and why too often today people of faith still don’t get it.
Jesus says, “A new COMMANDMENT I give to you: LOVE one another.” Did you catch it? It’s a new law telling us, no, commanding us to love. Rev. Richard Daggett says “This laws invades the very depths of our being; this law presumed to have jurisdiction over the way we think, the way we feel, over our opinions, our prejudices and biases, our concepts of superiority, over the way every fiber of our being, both inward and outward, responds to the world around us.” And then Rev. Daggett says this: “This law clarifies to us that while religion and law may exercise lordship over our actions, over the way we live, Christ wants lordship over everything we are. It is the law of the spirit and not simply the letter of the law.”
As I considered what Rev. Daggett said, I thought: every time we allow traditions and legalism in the church to win over love, we are NOT on God’s side; we are just in God’s way! And that is not a good place to ever find oneself.
So join us in worship this Sunday. I will be using this story of Peter preaching at Cornelius’s house, and this commandment of Jesus’ “to love one another” to preach a sermon that asks the question “Are You on God’s Side Or in God’s Way?” The scriptural texts for this sermon is “Acts 11:11-18” and “John 13:33-35.” And remember the clue to which one is true for each of us is found in the last line of the Gospel Reading and in Peter Scholtes’ song “They’ll know we are Christians By Our Love.”