Love, Unity and Diversity and Settling Differences
In our January issue of The Moravian Magazine, we introduced a new regular feature, “Studying Moravian Doctrine.” Following the outline established by Jesus Still Lead On, An Introduction to Moravian Belief, we will cover different aspects of two central documents outlining Moravian doctrine and belief each month. In 2015, we are working through the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living (MCCL); in 2016, we’ll cover the Ground of the Unity.
This month will cover the parts of the MCCL dealing with Love, Unity and Diversity and Settling Differences.
Thanks to Dr. Craig Atwood and the editors of Jesus Still Lead On (produced in 2005) for this material. If you are interested in obtaining the entirety of Jesus Still Lead On, please contact the IBOC or visit store.moravian.org.
Paragraph 13: Since disciples of Jesus are to be known by the love they have to one another (John 13:35), we will cherish Christian love as of prime importance.
Originally this paragraph referred to “brotherly” love rather than “Christian” love, but the wording was changed to make it inclusive of “sisterly” love as well. The Bible verse quoted here comes from Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples in John. Disciples of Christ are to love each other as Christ has loved us. For many centuries, the church officially proclaimed that the essentials of our church included our response to God’s salvation through “faith, love and hope.” In other words, for Moravians, love is an “essential.” In fact it is the most essential thing.
- What does “Christian love” mean to you? How does it differ from other forms of love?
- Is Christian love the same as “brotherly” or “sisterly” love?
- What happens to a congregation or a denomination when Christians stop acting in love toward one another?
- Is there a connection between love and stewardship?
- What are concrete ways in which we express love?
- How do we express love even when we disagree about doctrine?
- Is it important that we allow our brothers and sisters to love us as we love them?
Unity and Diversity
Paragraph 14: We will be eager to maintain the unity of the Church. Realizing that God has called us from many and varied backgrounds, we recognize the possibility of disagreements or differences. Often these differences enrich the Church, but sometimes they divide. We consider it to be our responsibility to demonstrate within the congregational life the unity and togetherness created by God who made us one. How well we accomplish this will be a witness to our community as to the validity of our faith.
Some things are easier said than done and this may be one of them. However, the call to unity in the Moravian Church is a common thread that runs through all the earlier versions of the Brotherly Agreement. According to Moravian doctrine, unity is one of the signs that a church is really Christian. According to Acts, chapter 4, from the beginning, the Christian Church included people from many different cultures who spoke many different languages and observed many different customs. Being Christian does not erase our distinctiveness; it may enhance it by giving us the grace and freedom to be who God created us to be.
One way of understanding the Moravian perspective is to imagine heaven as the perfect community. Who will you expect to see in heaven? Will it only be people who have the same skin color, economic status, language, accent, educational background, theology and gender as you? The Christian Church is called to reflect the heavenly vision on earth, but in the world we see that these same differences are the source of much hatred, conflict and bloodshed. Humans tend to hate what they do not understand and reject that which is different. The Moravian Church has seen the overcoming of barriers to be a particularly important part of its mission in the service of Christ. Therefore we have been tolerant of differences within our unity.
- How do differences enrich the Christian community?
- What differences do you see among the people in your congregation?
- Does this ever cause divisions?
- Are there concrete ways in which we can work through our disagreements and come to a deeper appreciation for the differing gifts all of God’s children bring?
- How can we as a Church reconcile when conflict has divided us?
- Is there a danger in pursuing a false sense of unity that masks rather than confronts our differences?
Paragraph 15: We will endeavor to settle our differences with others in a Christian manner (Galatians 6:1), amicably and with mediation and, if at all possible, avoid resort to a court of law (Matthew 18:15–17).
Many Moravians are surprised to find a statement about lawsuits in one of our doctrinal statements. It runs counter to the prevailing wisdom in American society where lawsuits are common. You might say that this provision in our Covenant is our version of “tort reform.” In general, our church has tried to live according to this rule, but there have been times when the courts were the only way to reach an agreement in particularly difficult cases. Lawsuits tend to sever relationships, but Moravians try to settle disputes in a way that does not lead to hurt feelings. We have also been suspicious of lawsuits that are intended to harm one person or enrich ourselves. Sacrificial love and the willingness to accept loss are part of the Moravian understanding of the Christian faith.
- Does this statement in the Covenant mean that Moravians should not be lawyers?
- Have you ever been tempted to sue someone? Did you want to do this out of love for the other person or out of anger?
- What would have happened if you had sued?
- What are other ways that we can settle our grievances without resorting to law courts?
- Are there any advantages in pursuing these paths?
Next issue: Worship and Holy Communion ■