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What is the New Commandment?

The New Commandment is to love one another, as Christ loves us

How many of us have seen a situation so clearly, in all the complexity that it contains, and conclude how we may best fulfill Christ’s commandment to love another in it?

Not only conclude, but act, and accomplish the action to the benefit of another. For it is assumed that to love another is not mere neutrality towards them 

I might be muddying the waters here and putting undue burden on the topic, but as I thought on Christ’s New Commandment, “love one another, as I have loved you” it dawned on me just how much wisdom and careful attention go into the act of loving.

The New Commandment comes right on the heels of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. So, the commandment to love seems heavily biased towards service. Perhaps for clarity’s sake, the Gospel writer should have included a “go and do likewise” statement shortly after. But the larger context for the commandment is the impending execution in Jerusalem.

Through His execution, Christ acted masterfully to provide the solution to humanity’s greatest problem: our separation and alienation from the Father. To show His love for us in such a way He had to, 1) know us intimately, 2) know what the problem was, 3) know our greatest weakness, and 4) see how to accomplish the best possible solution.

A quick note before moving forward. It may be argued that to love someone isn’t always about providing a solution to their greatest problem. And to some degree I would agree with that. But as the New Commandment to love one another came directly after the practical act of service of washing the disciples’ feet, it may be wise for us to see love in just such a practical way.

In all considerations, it seems that love is active and not neutral. It is not simply not hating someone but actively giving ourselves to another in some capacity, preferably in such a way that is helpful to them. This is the fruitful truth in Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, that not all receive love in the same way. There is no template to show love to all people. However, there is a wise way of going about love. To love someone as Christ loves us means, at the least, to know the person very well, know how to love them (i.e. how we may serve them), be willing to sacrifice to serve them (this could mean our time, resources, comfort, etc.), have enough wisdom to see how to accomplish the service, and finally accomplish the act of love.

As in Aquinas’ stages of practical reason, these steps, laid out in sequence, seem to be more concrete and complicated than day-to-day reality would allow. Would it be wise to carry around a card with steps 1-4 in our back pockets so we can better love those around us? No. Loving others is much more fluid and relation than bullet points.

As steps in our reasoning often happen quickly, even simultaneously, so our deliberations of love or service towards another come from a relational knowledge of them and a Spirit-guided disposition to serve. How does one explain wisdom in action? We don’t. We simply know, because of experience and our relationship to the situation at hand, how to act.

I realize that all this may sound like the Situational Ethics of the 60’s and 70’s, but that is not my intent. The goal is human flourishing and flourishing takes place in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is our end, to serve others in discipleship that they may have peace through God’s blessing. He blesses us with Himself; after all, God is love.

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Why Are There Other Religions by The Rev. Jacob Bottom

A music that resembled

Some earlier music

That men are born remembering.

-C.S. Lewis, “Vowels and Sirens”, Poems


Religion, the expression of devotion to transcendent beings, is ancient; perhaps too ancient to know its actual origin. Anthropologists and historians disagree not only in their varied conclusions about why religion exists but also in their varied methods of achieving said conclusions. Furthermore, the term “religion” encapsulates different things to different scholars, especially when compared to more ancient authors. One thing is for sure, human devotion to the transcendent has been around for a long time and will be around for a long time to come. In light of this, I want to suggest that other religions exist because the created world is not a mechanism ticking away like some forgotten antique toy. Rather, it is an interwoven reality of spiritual and physical forces (or beings) that humans are able to perceive, sometimes manipulate, and directly experience.

Religion resides in the deepest parts of human history, society and culture. Even in those places where it seems to have the lost its strength, the witness of its former hold on everyday life is irrefutable. The witness of totem poles and zoomorphic cave paintings, while possibly derived from someone’s “cleverly devised tales”, may actually attest to a true encounter with the supernatural. Whether that encounter is with the LORD or with another lesser spirit remains for another discussion. However, what seems evident is that the result of one such perceived encounter with the supernatural (e.g. Tribal shamans interacting with spirits, Muhammad receiving revelations in the cave, or Buddha achieving nirvana) tends to generate some type of ritual; a repeated action or series of actions to both remember and discern significance from the supernatural encounter.

Perhaps other religions exist because humanity, at certain points in history, has come into contact with the supernatural, and subsequently created the means (religion/ritual) to both remember the encounter and discern the significance of it. Indeed, there is something that strikes a chord in our souls when we experience an ancient ceremony devoted to the transcendent. Like “some earlier music that men are born remembering”, there is within us, as humans, a lingering connection to the divine. This is, I think, what makes other religions so compelling to people. Regardless of the full truth of the religion, the devotion itself speaks to something deeply woven into the foundation of humanity. For Christians, that something is the image of the living God.  

From a Christian perspective, we believe that the supernatural exists and interacts directly in our everyday lives. As an example, we believe that we who have been baptized receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guides and governs us every day. We also believe that a system or network of fallen angels, under the leadership of Lucifer, upholds “this world” and works tirelessly to mislead the ignorant and derail the faithful. If these things are true, it means that the physical and spiritual realms of creation interact with each other so integrally it often happens without much notice. My suggestion is that other religions developed out of instances when humans did notice that interaction between the spiritual and physical world. In this understanding one could affirm that supernatural beings have manifested themselves in the natural plane, have had interactions with people at a point in time, and as a consequence caused new religions to sprout.

The C.S. Lewis quote comes from his book Poems from a work titled “Vowels and Sirens.” The Sirens were three mythological creatures at sea, whose angelic voices lured sailors to their deaths. Lewis describes the affect of the Sirens, saying, “Nothing of solace [for our Hero], for lovers’ longings they breathed. Of vanished knowledge was their intemperate song.” Lewis writes that the song of the Sirens sang the sweet melody “of a vanished knowledge…a music resembling some earlier music that men are born remembering.” Men followed the song of the Sirens because it spoke so deeply to something inside of them they rushed to their deaths with passion and zeal. The sound of lovers’ longing and vanished knowledge compelled them and they willed to give up everything to find the source of it. Religion, based on actual encounters with the transcendent, sings that same sweet melody that compels people to give themselves to it.

Other religions exist because there is a supernatural element to creation and sometimes humans encounter that element. The encounter transcends normal human experience and leaves a sense of awe and wonder, which can generate devotion. Devotion to the transcendent is not wrong in and of itself as long as it is directed towards the one true God, who Himself has interacted with humanity. The experience touches something deeply woven into the human soul, a muddled memory perhaps, of a time when humanity was once in an unbroken relationship with God. Rituals grow from these experiences and religions come into existence. The image of God within humanity is still so powerfully felt that encounters with lesser spirits, who still transcend our day-to-day experience, promises to take people back to that song we were born remembering.

The Rev. Jacob Bottom is a Curate at St. David of Wales in Denton

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