Rejection lies in this, that when the light came into the world men preferred darkness to light; preferred it, because their doings were evil. Anyone who acts shamefully hates the light.” John 3:19,20
Recently, some well-meaning friends of mine have sent me videos about how Christians can be deceived, citing denominational differences and rejection of false authority – namely of men wearing hats. Deception is a hot-button topic among Christians. Namely, because our Lord Jesus Christs specifically warns us about it in the Gospels and deception is a repeated topic of both the Old and New Testaments. I wish I could say these videos were helpful, but that would be deceiving. Some are based in truth but most others are all about profit and hypersensationalism. In fact, most people believe they do more to widen the divide between Christian brothers and sisters than anything. Raise your hand if you’re a Christian whose been evangelized by other Christians for believing in your false religion. That’s called an oxymoron.
I believe in this age what the Spirit longs for is true unity. Unity of mind, body and spirit. And since, as the Great Fulton J. Sheen once said “Truth never appeals to us unless it’s personal,” it’s time to get a little personal. “As love comes from knowledge, so hatred comes from want of knowledge. Bigotry is the fruit of ignorance.” So I’m thankful my friend sent me the video, because it means we can all enter into conversation – a Spirit of Unity cannot prevail where this is welcomed a spirit of division. Maybe together, we can all enter into an even Greater Love – for as love grows, so can knowledge. And we could all stand to grow more in the knowledge of God.
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” … For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. -Matthew 24:4-5;24
So how are we to know who’s right and who’s wrong? Who’s being deceived and who’s deceiving? The answer is actually quite simple. And, it’s Scriptural, both Old and New.
The Greatest Commandment
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”” – Mark 12:28-31
The Gospel of Matthew records this encounter also, but with a different view. You can read it here. I chose Mark’s version because it most clearly demonstrates the point of Jesus’ ministry: reconciliation.
Google dictionary defines Reconciliation as “the restoration of friendly relations” or “the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.”
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is directly quoting from the Jewish Torah Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and Leviticus 19:9-18. Passages the teachers of the law and all of Israel would know well. He affirms once more, there is no commandment greater than these. But in the Gospel of John, Jesus does something NEW.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – John 13:34
Jesus is not repeating himself here. He is not quoting again from the Torah. He is doing something NEW and its powerful!
What is Love?
In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus is speaking to the Jews quite clearly. BUT, in the Gospel of John, Jesus is speaking not to the Jews but to His church – his true disciples.
We, you and I, as members of His Body, regardless of our denominational traditions, are to “also love one another.” Why do you think it was so important that Jesus distinguish the disciples’ love for each other from their love of neighbor and love of God? Could it be that He already foresaw all the family feuds and divisions that were to come?
Just as the Pharisee, the Sadducee and the Lawyer would question Jesus differently on the Scriptures, did Jesus foresee that his sailor, tax collector, and doctor might have different insights in the Church to come? How about the Gnostics, the Koptics, the Orthodox, and the Lutherans. If the disciples could be divided when Jesus was with him, how much more when he was gone? And surely Jesus saw Paul’s conversion into the church, right?
And how about those letters to the seven church’s in the Book of Revelations? They were all different yet part of His body. When we see ourselves as part of a larger family in Christ, we can start to learn a little something about Love and why we need to be more like little children.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Once again, Jesus is quoting a previous encounter with the Jews from John 8:21, where he said “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” The key to understanding the NEW Commandment of Jesus, lies in understanding what went down that day on the Mount of Olives in John chapter 8.
Beginning with the woman of adultery, Jesus is about to outline for the Jews (and the world) why he had to come. In light of this encounter, it is profound to see why he would again reference this point on the last day before he died, leaving his disciples with the blueprint on how to follow him.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus then proceeds to illuminate the minds and hearts of those who witnessed his lack of condemnation by explaining to them why he has been called to be the light of the world.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In true Berean fashion, the Pharisees question him on the scriptural foundations of his statement.
“So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.”
Jesus then proceeds to prove himself in the Scriptures, saying “Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
Without the light of Christ in our hearts to illuminate the Scriptures, even the Bereans can get it wrong just like the Pharisees. Knowledge and knowing are two distinct paths, only one concludes in becoming the object of that pursuit.
They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
Arguably, one of the greatest theologians of our century, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen writes in his book Three to Get Married, “Every person is what he loves. Love becomes like unto that which it loves. If it loves heaven, it becomes heavenly, if it loves the carnal as a god, it becomes corruptible. The kind of immortality we have depends on the kind of loves we have.”
This is the crux of the Gospel of John and why Jesus refers to it as one of his last references before his NEW commandment: We cannot go where Jesus is going unless we learn to love him – by becoming him. “Love becomes like unto that which it loves – Go and Sin no more.”
The Jews were baffled by this because they had not yet uncovered the Truth in the Scriptures. It would take the light of illumination which only Jesus could bring for them to see the power of Love in a triune God. “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.”
God is Love. And, Love is Triune.
A NEW Commandment
Love is very different from knowledge…If we understand anything, we can make it clear. If we do not understand it, we can never explain it. – Fulton J. Sheen, Three to Get Married
The Trinity does not have to be a great mystery for those who have come to know Jesus.
For Solo-Scriptural followers, the doctrine of the Trinity can bring quite a hiccup to their beliefs, since the dogma of the Trinity was not embraced as Christian practice until the 3rd century. You will not find one utterance of the word “Trinity” or “Triune God” anywhere in Scriptures, but you will most definitely find its truth written there!
The Gospels are re-pleat with revelations of Jesus as part of the Father and the Holy Spirit as part of them both and where this truth was evident in the Old Testament. Anyone can test the scriptures but without the illumination of Christ’s love in our hearts we cannot see them in the Truth that only the Light of the World can bring.
Fulton Sheen explains it best, “The Trinity is the answer to questions of Plato. If there is only one God, what does He think about? He thinks an eternal thought: His eternal Word, or Son. If there is only on God, whom does He love? He loves His Son, and that mutual love is the Holy Spirit. The great philosopher was fumbling about for the mystery of the Trinity, for his noble mind seemed in some small way to suspect that an infinite being must have relations of thought and love, and that God cannot be conceived without thought and love. But it was not until the Word became Incarnate that man knew the secret of those relations and the inner life of God, for it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who revealed to us the inmost life of God.”
Anyone who wants to argue doctrine with you to the point of condemnation does not possess the Light of Christ’s love, they walk in darkness. “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” Knowledge can bring you to Love but only obedience can help you become it. “Go, and from now on sin no more.”
To summarize the Great Archbishop, All Truth flows out of one thought of God, namely, the Son, His Thought become flesh. So if it’s not in the image of Christ, it’s not God’s thoughts for you.
I love how the Hebrew tradition of faith keeps the translation of Jeremiah 29:11 in their Torah, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Though many Christian versions of the Bible now translate it as “plans” the KJV and others still keep the original phrasing. Isn’t it interesting how just one word differently stated can change the way you think about God?
In the Light of this understanding we can return now to why we started along this journey and the profundity of Jesus’ answer in His NEW Command to “love one another.”
How can you avoid deception or becoming a deceiver? You must become Love. You must become the image of Christ. And Love the church. Love the whole church as Christ loves her. “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34,35
Now, here is the next best question: How do we Become Love!
There is No Pride in Love
All sin is self-centeredness, as love is otherness and relatedness. – Fulton J. Sheen, Three to Get Married
Just after Jesus issues forth his NEW commandment, Simon Peter asks a question that would cause most of us to think, “Was he even listening? He soo doesn’t get it.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. Jesus answered him,… Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
Like the Apostle Peter, many of us seek to justify our actions before the Lord. We boast in pride that we are able to do anything he asks when truly we are still afraid of what others will think. But justification apart from Love is not Truth, it is Ego. And, Egotism is the highest form of Pride.
Nowhere is this downfall seen more clearly than in the justification of love outside the bonds of marital union.
This form of Pride plays itself out most visibly in the world when sex is divorced from love. It is pure ego for man to believe he can divorce the spirit from the body or that love can exist between a man and a woman apart from God. Sheen says it best:
Love is trinity; sex is duality. Sex rationalizes; love does not. Sex has to justify itself with Kinsey Reports, “But Freud told us,” or “No one believes that today”; love needs no reasons. Sex asks science to defend it; love never asks “Why?” It says, “I love you.” Love is its own reason. “God is love.” Satan asked a “Why?” of God’s love in the Garden of Paradise. Every rationalization is farfetched and never discloses the real reason. He who breaks the Divine Law [of Love] and finds himself outside of Christ’s Mystical Body in a second marriage will often justify himself by saying: “I could not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation.” What he means is that he can no longer accept the Sixth Commandment.
Milton wrote an abstract and apparently a philosophical treatise on “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce,” in which he justified the divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. But the real reason was not what he set down in the book; it was to be found in the fact that he wished to marry someone else while his wife was living. What is important is not what people say, but why they say it. Too many assume that the reason people do not come to God is because they are ignorant; it is more generally true that the reason people do not come to God is because of their behavior.
Man’s problem is not in following false authority, but in making his own authority higher than God’s. This is the greatest deception.
Man does not have an authority problem so much as he has a problem with sin – particularly pride in the form of lust of the flesh.
When Jesus tells Simon Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now” he is not simply meaning because he has yet to lay down his life for Peter on the cross. The reason Peter cannot follow him yet is because Peter has yet to lay down his life for Christ. This is evident by what Jesus says following, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
Peter had a pride problem that needed to be resolved before he could go where Jesus was going. “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ ”
Unless we become like little children, willing to let go of hatred against our brothers and sisters for having different thoughts than us, willing to forgive one another of our trespasses against each other like our false accusations of adultery and heresy and judging when Christ judges not, willing to be reconciled in our beliefs once more together and with God inspite of our different cultures and traditions, we cannot go where Love is going, because we know it not. Love is not proud. We must allow ourselves to be filled with the Spirit of Love so that we can love one another and the world will know Love has come. This is the only way to follow, we must lay down our pride and cling to love.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
If we don’t believe we can know this kind of Love and actually become it, then we will divorce ourselves from it [and His body]. We will be as the lady of adultery and instead of sinning no more, we shall sin and sin again. We will reject Christ and the authority he left us. We will justify our own desires and reject God’s. We seek to find others who agree with us in order to appease our own pride until we each find ourselves alone in a huddle of despair.
Despair is disappointed hedonism. The most depressed spirits are those who seek God in a false god!
No one sins against Love without hurting themselves. Nothing better describes and represents rebellion against God than the tendency of the body to rebel against the spirit – literally and within the Mystical Body of Christ we call the Church.
Just as in marriage, when unity of the body becomes unity of the mind and heart in Christ the love becomes Divine. Mutual inherence is much more than a sharing of interests and an exchange of properties: rather these are the effects of a deeper fellowship, which reaches into the core of one’s being. It is the same in the Church. We must learn to combine our love for Christ in such a way that brings deeper fellowship rather than further division. A house divided cannot stand. A Bride cannot be made ready when she is not yet whole.
Peter could not go with our Lord now because he did not yet have the power of the Holy Spirit within him to fill him with that Divine Love that would grant him the authority over sin he would need to purge that pridefulness, which kept him from knowing love and laying down his life for Jesus. Peter has to wait to “follow him after,” But you and I don’t have to wait! We can go where Jesus is going now!
Once more, Fulton Sheen said it best, “It is that same Spirit Who, in fulfillment of the promise “It will be for him, the truth-giving Spirit, when he comes to guide you into all Truth (John 16:13), descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost and became the soul of the Church. The continuous, unbroken succession of the truth communicated by Christ to His Church has survived to our own day – not because of the human organization of the Church, for that is carried on by frail vessels, but because of the profusion of the Spirit of Love and Truth over Christ’s Vicar and over all who belong to Christ’s Mystical Body, which is His Church.”
It is that same Spirit of Love that asked Martin Luthern to open a dialogue with Christ’s Vicar at the time just as that same Spirit had asked Saint Francis centuries prior. Both men were men of the Church. Both men subjected themselves to her authority as Christ subjected himself to a human Mother. Martin Luther did not walk away but was asked to leave, and like any respectful son, he continued to honor the teachings of His Mother Church where he could. It’s interesting to me how few Christians have actually read Luther’s works, including his devotion to the Blessed Mother and other traditions, and how even fewer still have remained to call themselves Lutherans. Regardless, the point of these facts is not to bring further division but to point to that Spirit of Unity and Love which did not give up on her son but brought about his reconciliation in the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification“. The great schism of Luther is no more! It’s unfortunate how few brothers and sisters recognize this beautiful reunion has occurred. But what is even more joyous is the evidence of that same Spirit of Love at work in us today! And there is much more reconciliation to be done. In an age that has been chosen to justify sex without love, we must reconcile the body back to the spirit – in more ways than one!
Perhaps, in light of these thoughts, and the reconciliation of those misunderstood among us, we can better understand the heart of the woman accused of adultery that day at the Mount of Olives, when she heard her Savior say, “Has no one condemned you?…Neither do I.”
How do we become the face of Love to a despairing world? Come to know most intimately that Spirit of Love and let Him lead you! Know God’s Thoughts about you, not just His Scriptures. Let His Spirit of Love purge you of all forms of pride and BE HOLY, as He is Holy (1 Peter 1:15).
I have this confidence, Dear Ones, that Spirit of Love will bring us all into the fullness of Truth and of this truth we shall not be deceived, nor shall we be shaken, not even by family. In Love, all things are possible to those who believe.