Holy Love: Church

Expanding on the hermeneutic of love in the Church beyond what I write in the book means enlarging the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ.  I write some about it this in the book, but today I add these thoughts.

 First, the hermeneutic of love flows naturally from Christ into the Church through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:32-23).  The fruit is the meeting place to describe who Jesus was (and the universal Christ is), and who God intends for us to be as we abide in Christ  (John 15) and are  guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).   The definitive word in the list of the fruit of the Spirit is love.  John Wesley called love “the root of all the rest.” [1]. Similarly. E. Stanley Jones wrote, “Love is the first outcome of the Spirit within, and if it is lacking, everything is lacking.” [2]

Simply put, as the Body of Christ, the Church manifests the nature of Christ, which is love—even as he incarnated the nature of God, which is love.  Love is the core DNA of the Church.

Second, the Church manifests the love of Christ in the world.  On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gave the disciples a sign of this love, washing the disciples’ feet and telling them/us to do likewise (John 13:1-20).  And a few minutes later he gave the disciples a new commandment, “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you must also love each other.  This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34).  Through his action and his teaching, Jesus said that the hallmark of our witness is love.

Thomas Merton wrote about this and said, “So the mystery of the Church demands that Christians love one another in a visible and concrete way–and that they love all people.  Christ will not be visible to the world in His Church except in proportion as Christians seek peace and unity with one another and with all.” [3]

When I pause to reflect on all this, it is as if I hear the Risen Christ saying, “Is this clear enough?” And all I can say is, “ Yes Lord, it is.”  All means all.


(1) How does the Church help you to be more loving?

(2) How and where is your church loving inclusively?

[1] John Wesley, ‘Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament’ (1755), his comment on Galatians 5:22.

[2] E. Stanley Jones, ‘Growing Spiritually’ (Pierce and Washbaigh, 1953), subsequently reprinted by Abingdon Press in 1978, Week 18, Monday.

[3] Thomas Merton. ‘Seasons of Celebration’ (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1965 ), 216.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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