So Rick just finished up a series on the book of 1st John, and if you were going to summarize that book in one sentence it’s pretty easy…God is love, so love each other.
It’s not even a long sentence.
And John repeats this simple idea over and over again in different ways. For John, someone who spent some years with Jesus, you could boil down what it meant to follow Jesus into the simple call to love your brother because God is love. But he’s not the only one. Paul gives love an entire chapter, Jesus says all the law and the prophets (or the entire Hebrew Scriptures) hang or revolve around this simple idea to love God, and love others.
Scot Mcknight has a book called the Jesus Creed, in which he describes coming to this simple, but profound realization. That love really was what following Jesus was all about. And so he would just repeat this mantra everytime he thought of it. Love God, and love others.
He found himself doing it about 50 and 60 times a day. And he said something that I think is interesting, he said that he knows now why we tend to gravitate toward the rules of the Bible, because the commandments are easier to follow than that simple creed. They can keep a safe distance from you and God, or you and others. But if you are called to love God and others, that’s a whole different story.
During the whole Reformation period, the church was battling different points of doctrinal disagreements. Protestants had just broken with the Roman Catholic church and were trying to navigate what it meant to be a follower of Jesus without the structures of authority defining that for them.
And all kinds of different ideas were emerging that were slightly…out there.
One guy named Michael Servetus had this idea that Jesus as the Son of God, wasn’t eternal. It wasn’t an idea that was looked kindly upon by the emerging leaders of the Protestant faith, and so eventually John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for heresy.
That’s John Calvin. The guy that Calvinism is named after (also Calvin and Hobbes…no joke).
So here’s a man who knows the Scriptures extremely well, brilliant thinker, deeply devoted to the Lord and to the church. And he had a man burned at the stake for heresy.
Greg Boyd makes a great point on this issue. He asks, “If we are thinking Biblically, how can we not conclude that Calvin was the greater heretic? Burning someone alive is not loving them, doing good to them or blessing them (Lk 6:27-28, 35). And without love, whatever other truth Calvin may have been defending becomes worthless. If we’re thinking biblically, how can we avoid concluding that Calvin was not only a worse heretic than Servetus, but that he committed the greatest heresy imaginable?”
Which is a bit of a touchy question.
Augustine was the first Christian to justify persecution in the name of Jesus, and since then millions of people were tortured or killed for their heretical beliefs, whether it was their beliefs on communion, baptism, or the nature of Jesus. But not one person in church history was persecuted because they lacked love.
I think that the Church that carried out these acts in the name of Jesus was much more heretical than all the heretics it persecuted. They bought into the lie that as long as you don’t mess with what we put our faith and hope in, then we don’t care about the heresy of not loving.
There are all kinds of heresy’s that are out there right now. Some people believe that Jesus is going to build a spaceship and take us to another galaxy (which is a relatively new heresy) some say that Jesus is their homeboy, or that you can earn forgiveness. The world is filled with heresy.
But the greatest of these is love.