Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day Five, “Walking as the Friends of Jesus”

Jan 22nd, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On Day 5 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we continue our reflections on the daily themes and Scripture readings offered by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Many times, when reading a Protestant blog post about Catholicism, I feel the author would not consider me a friend. And, admittedly, many times what is written does not make me feel very friendly toward the author! Certainly, this can be a two-way street between Protestants and Catholics. I’ve encountered this with Eastern Orthodox writing, too.

With the advent of comboxes, we have a great challenge to the Christian virtues. When theologically crossed, we have the instant capacity to (publicly) retaliate and to stand up for ourselves. “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”


Friend or Foe?

These combox conversations, done at light speed, can easily have all the accouterments of a wrestling scene from our favorite wrestling movie. In this corner, wearing gold pants, we have Dr. Smith of Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church. And in that corner, wearing the red shorts with blue trim, we have Dr. Jones of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Queen of Heaven. The audience roars, waiting to see their prize fighter land some early blows. Sometimes it’s tag-team wrestling, adding to the action, but not necessarily to the pursuit of truth.

When we engage in these combox conversations, are we friends of foes?

It can be hard to feel friendly with someone not pursuing the same goals as you. If a Protestant believes my Church to be the whore of Babylon, and believes his own calling to be to drive people away from my Church, there seems to be little grounds for friendship. If another Protestant believes that all these differences between his (say) historically Reformed views and my own views don’t really matter, such that he has relativized and marginalized what I hold dear about my Church (and all that may be dear about his own), there doesn’t appear to be much more in the way of grounds for friendship here, either. These problems, too, are a two-way street between Protestants and Catholics.

But the Lord requires us to ‘walk as the friends of Jesus,’ which is today’s theme. For, so long as we are open and notorious foes, we blind the world to the love Jesus has to offer. In the uncertainty that divides us, the world finds solace for its own spiritual apathy. It openly mocks us.

Today’s readings draw out a reflection on love and truth. It is through love for each other and love for truth that we can begin walking as friends of Jesus. St. John provides us with perhaps the most well known call to love:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15: 12-15.)

“Love one another” is a clear imperative. It is easily said but not easily done. There is no exception for those who misstate your faith while castigating it, or who employ rhetorical tools you find upsetting. We must love one another.

This love leads us to desire that our interlocutor (as the object of our love) should have the truth. (We must also desire to be in truth ourselves, of course.) As St. John beautifully writes: “No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.” (3 John 4.)

Just as it would be joyful to find truth with a brother or sister, it should be grievous to see him or her struggling in confusion or error. But because we love that person, we do not get upset or employ derisive words. Instead we lay down our very selves for that person to encourage him or her into the truth. “Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the Church. . . . So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.” (3 John: 5-8.)

Let us walk as friends of Jesus, that the world might become friends with Him as well. Let us begin our combox conversations with an intention to love our interlocutor, to seek truth together, and to give of ourselves for that other person. If we do these things, and are vigilant to avoid pride, we can do what the Lord requires of us.

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS
 FOR THE ‘EIGHT DAYS’

Day 5 Walking as the friends of Jesus
Readings
Song of Solomon 1: 5-8 Love and the beloved
Psalm 139: 1-6 You have searched me out and known me
3 John 2-8 Hospitality to friends in Christ
John 15: 12-17 I call you friends

Commentary

To walk humbly with God does not mean walking alone. It means walking with those who are those vital signs of God’s presence among us, our friends. “But I have called you friends” says Jesus in John’s Gospel. Within the freedom of love, we are able to choose our friends, and to be chosen as a friend. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” Jesus says to each of us. Jesus’ friendship with each of us transfigures and transcends our relationships with family and society. It speaks of God’s deep and abiding love for us all.

The Bible’s love poem, the Song of Solomon, has been interpreted in various ways such as the love of God for Israel, or the love of Christ for the Church. It remains the testimony of passion between lovers which transcends the imposed boundaries of society. While the lover says to her beloved “I am black and beautiful”, her words come with the plea “do not gaze at me because I am dark.” But the lover does gaze, and chooses love, as does God in Christ.

What does the Lord require of those called to walk with Jesus and his friends? In India it is a call to the churches to embrace the Dalits as equal friends of their common friend. Such a call to be friends with the friends of Jesus is another way of understanding the unity of Christians for which we pray this week. Christians around the world are called to be friends with all those who struggle against discrimination and injustice. The walk towards Christian unity requires that we walk humbly with God with—and as—the friends of Jesus.

Prayer

Jesus, from the first moment of our being you offered us your friendship. Your love embraces all peoples, especially those who are excluded or rejected because of human constructions of caste, race or colour. Filled with the confidence and assurance of our dignity in you, may we walk in solidarity towards each other, and embrace each other in the Spirit, as children of God. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Questions

  • Who are those in your communities whom Christ calls into your friendship?
  • What prevents the friends of Jesus from being friends with one another?
  • How does being the friends of the same Jesus challenge the divided churches?

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5 comments
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  1. Tom,

    This is a very helpful, and, if I may say so, beautiful, post. I am humbled by it and spurred on to be more like Christ, especially to those of our separated brethren who have difficulty with seeing Catholics as Christians at all. I was once one of them. Thank you for these good thoughts, brother.

    I also got a good belly laugh from visually picturing the Reformed pastor and the Catholic priest in wrestling garb! :-)

  2. P.S. Ok, maybe not a priest but still, a Catholic theologian, hehe. “Aaand in THIS corner… Peter ‘the Powerhouse’ Kreeeeft!” :-)

  3. Chris,

    Thank you. Writing these last couple of reflections has been a very good exercise for me. I feel spurred on as well. We can do better. This collection of online debating Christians, we must do better.

    I hope you caught the Twisted Sister reference as well (whose theme I was not endorsing).

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  4. Tom,

    Amen on all counts, brother. I want to do better, too, with ecumenical dialogue (and you and the other contributors on this site already do well, I believe).

    I *wondered* if that was a Twisted Sister reference! :-) (In 1984– showing my age here–, I actually saw them in concert! That was a long-ago, different me, needless to say!)

  5. jj

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