“Love one another” – get Transfigured (too)…

*   *   *   *

Trying to love all people – as a “Crossfire Christian” – can feel like entering No man’s land

*   *   *   *

I started off wanting to make this just another post on the Transfiguration of Jesus. (The Feast – the Celebration – that happened last Sunday, August 6, 2023.) And to explain again how it came to be called The Greatest Miracle in the World. But I also wanted to talk about a new name for Christians like me. (The real ones.) A post I would call “On Crossfire Christians.”

The way I see it, that name can help in those situations – so common these days – where someone demands, “What are your politics?” Are you a Conservative or – heaven forbid – a Liberal? Here’s a good new answer that just occurred to me: “Who Me? I’m just trying to stay out of the crossfire. So I’m a Crossfire Christian.* You know, like Jesus?”

Which is another way of saying Jesus didn’t get involved in politics. (Not like so many so-called Christians today.) He was more about saving souls. (And you know what they did to him for that.) Along that line I’m also trying to come up with a short snappy comeback. Say you’re at a bar, or trolling on Facebook, and someone says something really stupid. Something really off the wall. The question becomes, “How do I keep from saying, ‘What are you, an idiot?‘”

First off, that response wouldn’t be Christian. Besides, I’m trying to get the real message of Jesus out, to the people who need it most. (Like those who put their politics above their Faith. And that has crippled recruiting.*) The problem is, “How do you deal with that in a short, snappy comeback?” You need that today because way too many people have their minds set in stone. So, to have any chance at spreading the Good News you need to get your point across quickly. Or in ruder terms, “How do I dumb it down enough to get my point across quicker?”

I finally found an answer in last Sunday’s Transfiguration sermon. (August 6.)

In that sermon our Supply Priest – Father Tom – managed to sum up the entire message of the Bible in three simple words. “Love one another.” Of course I’d read of Jesus saying that before, in John 13:34. But for some reason the way Father Tom made that point – at just the time when I needed such clarification the most – finally brought things into focus.

Again, you summarize Jesus’ whole point in three simple words: “Love one another.”

The full passage – in the NIV – has Jesus say, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” For me, last Sunday, that was exactly the right answer to what I’ve been looking for. The solution to, “How do I deal with so much hate and hostility these days?”

You can argue that other Bible passages are more important – and I have. Like Romans 10:9 and John 6:37. But in this day and age of such polarization, you can’t do much better, or simpler, than respond, “Love one another.” For maximum impact in the shortest possible time, just respond, “Love one another.” (And if you’re feeling especially smarmy you might add, “Some guy named Jesus said that. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”)

Politically it’s a simple effective litmus test. It also works for Facebook posts on a controversial new song. (Like “Try That in a Small Town.”) Just ask, “Does he or she preach (or stand for) ‘loving one another?” Which brings up another passage on point, John 6:60. That’s where so many disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Which explains why too many of today’s so-called Christians don’t seem to follow the call to “love one another.”

Of course there’s also Mark 12:31, where Jesus said, of the Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment.*” But too many people, their minds already made up, can nitpick that one. “That guy isn’t my neighbor. He lives too far away.” Or, “He’s not my neighbor. He’s from Mexico.” (Or some other “foreign place.”) But with “love one another” there is no such problem. Those three little words are simple, clear and precise.

Which brings up The Transfiguration. Simply put, to be transfigured is to be “transformed.” And if you start responding to such polarization with “love one another,” you too can be transformed – transfigured – like Jesus. Not that it will be easy, but then it wasn’t easy for Jesus either.

In 2015 I posted Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. “Unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him. All the others involved Jesus doing things for other people.” That’s why St. Thomas Aquinas considered it the “the greatest miracle.”  (E.A.)

The post also noted that seeing the Transfiguration “transformed” the three disciples, Peter, James and John. They never forgot what happened that day, which was probably what Jesus intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only.” (John 1:14)  Peter also wrote of the event, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.) Thus:

The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ… That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death… But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus.

In plain words, seeing Jesus transfigured “transformed” Peter, James and John. They went from cowards hiding in an upper room after Jesus “died” into witnesses who transformed the Known World. They transformed personally, then went on to Change the World. Of course you may not be able to do all that, but by reciting the simple “love one another” you can start transforming yourself. And maybe even lower the temperature on today’s boiling-over politico-polarization.

Heck, you might even metamorph from a metaphoric caterpillar to a butterfly…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of No Man’s Land Image – Image Results. See also No man’s land – Wikipedia, referring to a waste or unowned land or an uninhabited or desolate area “that may be under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied out of fear or uncertainty.” Today the term is “commonly associated with World War I to describe the area of land between two enemy trench systems, not controlled by either side.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Crossfire Christian.” Years ago I tried names like “Contrarian” and “Independent.” So for this post I borrowed from Epiphany ’23, the end of Christmas and “farewell Mi Dulce,” which referred back to ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian (or actually an Independent). Also, On Independence Day, 2016, and On Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant.” (Which also addresses Jesus being above – not interested – in politics.) In 2022 I tried the term “Mystic Christian,” and published a book on that, On Mystic Christians: (You know, the REAL ones?) Before that I wrote the more confrontational No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian, in 2018, with the subtitle, and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.

On “crippled recruiting.” See articles like U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time, and Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline.

Re: Jason Aldean song. The link is to Why is Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ so Controversial?” Subtitle: “The country star’s song has people divided over just what his message is.” Or Google “that small town jason aldean controversy.”

Re: Second Great Commandment. The first is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

On Nitpicking. According to Wikipedia, that’s “giving too much attention to unimportant detail.” From the “common act of manually removing nits (the eggs of lice” from another person’s hair:

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors… Nitpicking has been used to describe dishonest insurers and bullying employers, or even bullying family members.

On Change the World. The song first recorded by Wynona Judd, then Eric Clapton in 1996. It became a “perfect example of how music has the power to unite musicians of different genres, nations, and looks.” See Wikipedia for more.

Other posts on the subject include On the Transfiguration – 2020, which included the “metamorphosis” image, and noted the mountain setting of the Transfiguration presented “the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.” See also On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021.”

*   *   *   *