In talking about the church of his era (around 200) an African writer notes: “But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death.”

~Tertullian, Apology, ch.39

See, how they love one another.  Is this what people think of Christians in our era?  If we take the Bible seriously, then it should be.  Indeed, as 1 John writes most clearly,  “The person who does not love remains in death.”

John doesn’t mention anything about doctrinal disagreements and preciseness as being a marker of a good Christian.  No doubt, he forgot to add that. Fortunately, the later churches were able to correct his work in their actions and behavior. Taking the Bible seriously came to mean emphasizing a great many elements the original authors didn’t feel inclined to highlight.

Which is where Fundamentalism got it wrong. They emphasized the debates not the love, the division not the hope.

Love is the fundamental element of Christian theology. God is love.  “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us.” 

Without love, theology and churches are just clashing cymbals of dysfunctional religion.

There should be a neo-fundamentalism, where the marker is radical love and inviting hope.  There certainly is this, examples abound, but the other kind, the angry and frustrated and divisive kind, gets a lot more press.  How do we change that in our lives?

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