This is the seventh in a series of daily posts during this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25, 2011) offering brief reflections on the biblical basis for the quest for Christian unity. These reflections are drawn from the pages of Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity (Cascade Books, 2010).
We embody one life with each other through the practice of “bearing with one another.” “Bearing with one another” suggests something like “putting up with one another,” the way we put up with family members whom we love but who thoroughly annoy us or with whom we have hotly-argued disagreements. It is the qualifier “in love” that makes putting up with one another possible, whether in family life or church life or in any of our relationships. Love in the biblical sense of the word makes putting up with each other possible because it is not a fleeting feeling that depends on whether we like the other or whether the other seems to love us. Love can be commanded in Scripture because love is an act of the will and not merely an emotion. When Jesus commands us, “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), he’s not saying “have warm feelings of affection for your enemies,” but rather “love your enemies in the same way I love the people who crucified me and for whose sins I have died.” If that’s true for our relations with our enemies and with those currently outside the church, how much more should it be true of our relations with all those who belong to the body of Christ—even those we believe have dangerously distorted understandings of what it means to be Christian? We’re urged to speak the truth to one another later in chapter 4, and sometimes that may tragically mean maintaining some of the current divisions of the church until we make more progress together in our effort to “try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).
-- from chapter 3, “One Life with Each Other: The Theology of Ecumenism”
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