Pastor Ben Cachiaras said that when author Bob Goff visited Mountain Christian Church and he finished his speech — which he gave standing on a chair — Goff said, “Love everybody always, and start with the people who creep us out.”
Cachiaras gave the homily for the morning devotional service at 9:15 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 27, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. His homily title was “The Separation of Church and Hate: Be Known for CHARITY.” The scripture text was John 13: 34-35 (NRSV) —
“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.”
Because we have our identity in Christ, Cachiaras told the virtual congregation, “we behave with civility, demonstrate humility and strive for unity. We also should be known for charity, for love.”
In his farewell to his disciples, Jesus told them to love one another, “just as I have loved you.” Jesus loved the people on the fringe, the people who were unsightly, and across political and racial lines.
“He wants us to love one another that we can reach across the political aisle,” Cachiaras said.
“We are the proof for a loving God to a watching world.”
In his Wednesday, Aug. 26, homily, Cachiaras recalled the theological mandate that in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity or love. “That holds us together. Forces outside the church will recognize God’s love at work through us.”
Orthodoxy is right or straight belief; orthopraxis is right action or practice.
“Now is the time for right practice. The world won’t see a loving God without us. Through us, people will see how God loves us and the world,” Cachiaras said.
The church in the first few centuries grew by leaps and bounds, he said, because “it out-loved everyone else. A no-name messiah with a ragtag bunch of disciples out-loved everyone else during fires, plagues and disease.”
He continued, “That kind of love still turns heads. People look and think, ‘There might be something to that.’ Christian love and serving others in Jesus’ name is the best apologetic for Christianity. It is not our fancy buildings or light displays or worship service, it is the love of Jesus flowing through us.”
Cachiaras told the congregation to research online the phrase “Why are Christians so …”
What he found depressed him. When you add the first letter of the next word, what came up were very negative words. For a, the words “antagonistic” and “angry” came up; for b, “belligerent” and “bigoted”; for c, “caustic.”
The word “Christian” calls up images of support for racism, hatred of women and anti-immigration.
“All this makes a bad impression,” Cachiaras said. “We need to learn to disagree politically while loving unconditionally. We should be bridge-builders, not just hanging out with those who think like us.”
He rephrased Goff’s line. “Love everybody all the time, and start with the people who creep you out.”
Faith is proven by how deeply we love our enemies, not our friends. Cachiaras said tolerance was not a high enough standard. “Our standard is love. Hang out with those on the other side. Stand up to those with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree.”
He reminded the congregation that contempt is a sign that we have work to do. He repeated that “tolerance is too low a standard, we are called to love our enemies. Jesus answered hatred with love and put on a clinic and showed us how.”
Cachiaras continued, “Ask God to give you the strength to love your enemy. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”
He said, “I assume you believe what Jesus says, now can you actually do it? Move from orthodoxy to orthopraxis. We will be known for something, so let people know you are a disciple by your love. Love everybody, and start with those who creep you out.”
The Rev. Natalie Hanson, a retired United Methodist minister and cohost of the United Methodist House in Chautauqua, presided at the service from the Hall of Christ. Chautauqua interim organist Joshua Stafford played “Elegy,” by C. Hubert H. Parry, for the organ prelude on the Tallman Tracker Organ. The hymn was “O Perfect Love,” sung by guest artist Amanda Lynn Bottoms. Stafford played “Dawn,” by Cyril Jenkins, for the anthem. The organ postlude, played by Stafford, was “Litanies,” by Jehan Alain. This week’s services are sponsored by the Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion and the Daney-Holden Memorial Chaplaincy. The music for today’s devotional service was in memory of Jared Jacobsen, who died a year ago, Aug. 27, 2019.