I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 NRSV
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Acts 11:2-3 NRSV
To be a community, there will be a rule. The rule will define the people who follow it and be what outsiders will expect to see. Any rule Christians may devise will have regard for the whole of the Bible while not being scripture. The creeds are an example of this and maybe our members handbook. There is nothing wrong with this.
As Christians, our truth will start with the teachings of Jesus as much as we are able to discern them. The truth is that Jesus’ teaches that, by the spirit we will know the truth and be set free. Could silence before God be the source of wisdom, not wrestling with words?
But what if the rule book defines who you are? What if the 600 odd regulations of the Law of Moses is your identity, keeping the Sabbath being the central one? What if the food laws were what you would die for?
This is where the Jewish Christians found themselves. But this wasn’t just any rule, it was a law mediated by angels. By what authority had Peter to change things? A trance, a vision, a voice!
When the spirit descended on Gentiles, Christians had to rewrite the rule book. The community had to be more inclusive. Jesus in his teachings had prepared them for this rupture with the past.
Jesus taught that the rule that would distinguish his followers would be their love for one another. This is why it was a new command as the old one was one of law. His blunt statement means that whatever our rule, whatever our creed or history, only one thing defines us; our love for one another.