“Let mutual love continue…”
In Hebrews 13, the writer pens these words to a Christian community of faith faced with a tumultuous religious landscape of division. The community the letter is written to were likely former Jews, who had converted to Christianity, and now are faced with a question of whether the old covenant and way of doing things was better than following this Jesus, a Rabbi (teacher) some of them had never met.
Time and again the writer, while attempting to show them where Jesus fits into the bigger picture of the journey of God with God’s people, encourages them to focus on Christ who is the forerunner of their faith. She or he encourages them to see that Jesus is a part of it all and that the old covenant was not bad, but that God has offered something complete in the teachings of Jesus that they had chosen to follow.
This did not stop them from arguing about the proper way to relate to God, the best way to live as citizens of the Roman empire, or the closest understanding of the old scriptures. The writer encourages them, over and over, to hold on to love and peace in their community. To serve others together, to worship as one body, and to keep moving forward with a faith grounded in hope.
As I prepared to discuss Hebrews 11-13 with our Bible study group this week, I sat in our sanctuary and thought of the others who had sat in those pews over the past 100 years or so. I thought about the differences in opinion, thought, politics, and theology that they’d each had. I imagine that there has never been, in the history of Benson Baptist, a moment where everyone agreed on every single thing in our spaces of worship. I know there were those that voted for one candidate in elections, and those that voted for another. Those who believed in one understanding of scripture, and those that held to another. Those who… the list could go on and on, especially on the basis of theology, politics, ideology, etc. where we have always found division on individual levels.
In those individual divisions, it has never been wrong for us to find a space to speak them into our faith community. It is never wrong to ask tough questions, even when they push against what has always been. It is never wrong to voice doubt, even about things of faith. What is a church of Christ if not a place to share who we really are on the deepest levels, even when we don’t always agree? A church should never be a place where ideas are shuttered, as long as it is a forum where all ideas can be voiced in love and grace.
With all of that in mind, where is the place where all of these these congregations over the decades have not been divided? On their striving after Christ as a community. For 133 years, the church at Benson Baptist has stood as an outpost of the Kingdom of God through worshiping together, serving our community, and sharing in fellowship. We have done this through tough situations, and joyful ones. Through elections, births, deaths, and staff changes. We have embodied the call of the writer of Hebrews to “let mutual love continue.”
As we enter the final month before this year’s Election Day, I know we do not all see eye-to-eye on politics –– or even the theological understandings that cause us to vote a certain way. We do not all agree on who should sit in the Oval Office come January 20, nor do we all agree on the larger issues that swirl around such an election. This is a fact, and one that has been true for every congregation of the Benson Baptist community for a long time.
Even in these differences let me encourage you to let mutual love continue. Even in these uncertain days, where we cannot be together fully in the ways that we would like: let mutual love continue. As we seek to be people of light, justice, mercy and grace in the world around us: let mutual love continue. As we vision for the future: let mutual love continue.
And as we let mutual love continue, let us continue to be that outpost of the Kingdom of God, showing those around us that there is more than all of this, that we can find ways to come together across all that divides us, and that there is ALWAYS hope on the horizon!
Thankful to walk with you,