Last week we reflected on the possibility that God loves us all in relation to our particularisms and our distinctiveness. When we say God so loved the world we do so not in a generic sense but in a particular sense .. God loves every aspect of the world individually just as a mother loves each child not in a generality but because of their particularisms .. loving each one with the same intensity but with a different quality as it were .. with the particular kind of love each one needs.
This morning we look at what that means in terms of how we relate to one another! If God loves each of us according to our differences then how should we love one another?
For this is what we are called to do … we say at the start of our confession these words, let us confess our sins .. that we might keep God’s commandments and live in love and peace with all! As we have read in our Gospel passage today .. the commandment of Jesus to His disciples is simply this; is to love one another.
This was not an easy message for the disciples to hear ..it is perhaps familiar to us now ..but to the disciples it was a radical message as until then the commandments of God to them had been many and varied. The 10 commandments given to Moses had been expanded and added to in such a way that every aspect of life was regulated. The commands of God were many and burdensome in the ancient Jewish community .. not least relating to Temple Sacrifice and appeasement of God’s wrath! Theirs was not a religion of love but of rituals and laws. Yet Jesus says to them .. the command of God is this .. to love one another!
Working this all out was not straightforward .. and so as we do today it seemed important to form a committee!! Although they called it a council! The council of Jerusalem met to talk through how the followers of Jesus were going to follow this command ..and indeed to eventually put aside the other commands of the law. For in reality this was what was required! It was an either/or matter!
Either you follow the commands of the law .. or you love one another .. because as the council came to recognise it was the very laws they had said up which had separated them from the their neighbour. And in becoming separate it had become impossible to love their neighbours.
And this had become a problem because as non-Jewish people had turned to the message of Jesus the Jewish believers had their exclusive rituals tested .. would they now eat with gentiles and share their table .. would they walk and talk and share with what has always been seen as unclean? Would they accept the people who they had always called sinners as they were and call them brother and sister or would they tell them they had to change and become like them before they could love them.
Would the disciples like God accept the different and distinctive in love or would they say I will love you only when you are like me and agree with me?
The answer for the disciples was clear as we read in Acts . .in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’
In our Lent season we studied the question of inclusion in our churches ..we have not moved far from the questions of the early Church about who we should love and why. Let us do what we can to embrace their answer to the question of inclusion .. all are welcome and all are loved .. just as they are!