By Our Love

Yesterday evening, on June 19, about two dozen Good Samaritans worshiped with the congregation of Primm Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church. Pastor Mercedes reminded us that June 19 was the celebration of “Juneteenth,” the day when African American slaves in Texas finally learned of the Emancipation Proclamation made effective on January 1 of that year. She remarked that we had come a long way, evidenced by our worshiping together, but still had a long way to go in the work of racial reconciliation. Our choir then sang an arrangement of “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” This song was written in the 1960s by Peter Scholtes, a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago, for the parish youth choir. He wrote the song to be used at ecumenical and interracial events in the city. If you lived through the ’60s, you’ll know firsthand the sentiment behind the text of the song.
 
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity may one day be restored,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
 
I remember the first time I heard the song. I was a freshman in college, and attended what was considered a “liberal” Assemblies of God church in Springfield, Missouri. They were considered “liberal” because of the racial mix of the congregation and their emphasis on social justice. I was struck by that last line, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Not by our doctrinal purity, or how religious we are, or what church we belonged to, but “by our love.”
 
The 19th century English writer Henry Drummond wrote, “We have been accustomed to be told that the greatest thing in the religious world is faith. Well, we are wrong.” The greatest thing, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, is love.
 
In Galatians 5, St. Paul mentions love first in his list of “the fruit of the Spirit.” Why? Come to church on Sunday, June 23, and find out! We begin our summer series on the Fruit of the Spirit. I will give you a teaser, however. I think Paul listed love first because all of the other fruit—patience, kindness, peace, etc.—flow out of and are, in a way, elements or expressions of love. Living in love is possible, scripture tells us, because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
 
Two weeks ago we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and now we are in the season of Pentecost. It’s a good time to reflect upon and consider the work of the Spirit in the transformation of our own character and the Spirit’s work to help us fulfill our baptismal promise to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” The best place to start is love.
 
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
 
—Fr. Steve+

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