The Words of the Fefferman Family
How Then Shall We Live? Ė The Community
August 21, 2005
New Hope Family Church
'Christians preach about loving one's enemies, but Jesus also said to love your neighbor. Who is a Christian's neighbor? Certainly it is another Christian. But are they doing it? Do Catholics love Mormons? Do Jehovah's Witnesses love Methodists? It doesn't matter who calls us heretics; whoever practices this principle of loving one's enemy is closer to God and is the orthodox Christian. That is my belief. Love can unite. If Christians practice love then we can unite Christians, and then Christians can unite all the religions of the world.... The important thing is to inherit the true tradition and spirit of Christianity. As long as we inherit the doctrine of love and practice it, we are the most orthodox Christians.
Reverend Sun Myung Moon
February 21, 1980
In the above reading, Father Moon asks the question: "Who is a Christianís neighbor?" This is basically the same question a Jewish lawyer posed to Jesus in Luke 10:29. The man asks Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit life eternal life?" Jesus doesnít answer directly. Instead he uses the Socratic method and has the man answer his own question. "What is written in the law? How to you read it?" Jesus says. The man gives the right answer, the one Jesus himself is recorded as giving elsewhere: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind ' (Deut. 6:5) and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But then the man asked: "And who is my neighbor?" Itís a very important question when you think about it. Is my neighbor just my fellow Jew? If Iím a Pharisee does it include Sadducees? If Iím an Essene does it include Zealots? What about non-observant Jews? Or, to put it in todayís context, if Iím a Methodist does it include Catholics, if Iím a Baptist does it include Mormons? If Iím Christian, does it include Muslims? And if so, which Muslims?
The Good Samaritan
Jesus answered the question "Who is my neighbor?" by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Letís read it together.
ĎA man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of himÖ "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."í
Jesus used a Samaritan as his example because he wanted to show that even the most marginal member of society could practice the core teaching of the Torah, the Jewish Law, and thus inherit eternal life. The Samaritans were outcasts from mainstream Jewish society. They were considered half-breeds racially, because they didnít follow the teaching of Ezra and Nehemiah to get rid of their non-Jewish spouses at the time the Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian exile. They were considered theologically suspect because they refused to worship in Jerusalem but had their own Temple in Mt. Gerizim. So another lesson of this parable is that morality trumps theological correctness.
It should be mentioned, I think, that this view is not entirely shared by the rest of the writings of the New Testament. In Luke, the concern for the poor and oppressed is much in evidence. But Matthewís gospel takes a different attitude toward Samaritans than Lukeís Gospel. In Matthew, Jesus says: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel." (Mt. 10:5) And nowhere in Matthew does Jesus speak to Samaritans or enter their towns as he does in Luke and Johnís gospels.
And speaking of Johnís Gospel, we get a very different teaching from Jesus in that Gospel about what one needs to do to attain eternal life. Matthew, Mark and Luke agree that to inherit eternal life one needs to follow the great commandments. Basically itís a matter of doing what the Torah says about loving God, loving your neighbor, not committing murder and adultery, not bearing false witness, and honoring your parents. (Mt. 19:19) But Johnís gospel doesnít mention any of these in relation to attaining eternal life. Instead, John reports Jesus as saying: "God so loved the world that he gave his on begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (3:16)Ö. whoever looks to the son and believes in him has eternal life (6:40)Ö Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. (6:54)" So for John, attaining eternal life is a matter of faith in Jesus and partaking in the sacraments. This is a very different emphasis from the synoptic gospels, which adherence to core commandments taught in the Law of Moses.
Issues for Community
How does all this relate to how we should live as a community? First, it relates in terms of how we treat those on the margins of our community or outside of it. Second it relates to the question of how we should deal with those with whom we have theological disagreements inside our community.
Father Moon gives a clear guideline when he says: "whoever practices this principle of loving one's enemy is closer to God and is the orthodox Christian." This seems to indicate that theological belief is less important that one does. The Israeli settler who hugs and forgives the soldier who is forcing the settler from his home is a better Christian than the Baptist who refuses fellowship a Muslim.
But does this really hold in all cases? What about if a person holds an unacceptable belief? And what if someone is acting in a way that offends us morally? Where do we draw the line between an embracing community and a community that has integrity with its own values?
Examples Then and Now
These questions will confront our community even as they confronted the early Christians. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians did not succeeded in loving each other as neighbors. Some Jewish Christians insisted that Gentile Christians become Jews in order to be true followers of Jesus. And later, Gentile Christians insisted that Jewish Christians give up their Jewish traditions in order to remain part of the Church. In our community, Korean Unificationists sometimes expect non-Korean Unificationists to adopt Korean customs, and non-Koreans react against this. How we resolve this tension will have much to say about what our world community look like in the future. Will we continue to have separate services for Koreans and westerners as we do in many communities today? Or will we worship together like one family? And in what language will we worship?
In the late first century, the Christian church was divided between the Orthodox believers and the Gnostics. The Orthodox emphasized the sacraments, the crucifixion, and the physical resurrection of Jesus as central to salvation. The Gnostics believed that the resurrection was spiritual rather than physical and that each Christian had the potential to be as divine as Jesus was.
These two groups too failed to love each other as Christian neighbors. Eventually the Orthodox won the day. The Gnostic scriptures were not included in the New Testament, and most of their writings were destroyed. Only recently, a large collection of Gnostic writings were uncovered in Egypt and Nag Hammadi and have gradually attained popular attention. What will be the attitude of Unificationists? Will we have our own groups that parallel these? Will some of us emphasize the uniqueness of True Parents and the centrality of sacraments like holy wine and holy salt, while others emphasize the idea that each of us can become a "small Sun Myung Moon" who doesnít need sacraments and rituals? And will our love for each other as neighbors be greater than the tendency to blame and accuse each other?
In the late second century there arose the "New Prophecy" Ė the Montanists Ė people who believed that the Holy Spirit still gave new revelations. They were eventually condemned as heretics, and the church came to see revelation as something that had ended in the apostolic age of the first century. The Bible became the final revealed truth. Will this happen to us to? Will we codify Fatherís teachings and ban new revelations? And what will we do when people claim to have received new words from God?
In the early fourth century came the Arian controversy. Was Jesus truly God Himself, the same exact substance as God? Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria said yes. Arius, who had been one of the church elders in the same city, said no. Emperior. At the Council of Nicea the Emperor Constantine sided with Athanasius, and the Arians lost. Their books too were burned, and so far no one has unearthed any of them.
Another important question is the issue of Perfection. Is the Church for everyone, or only for saints? There were several perfectionist movements in Christian history Ė the Montanists and Donatists being two important ones. In the late 4th century, the Donatists became so strong that the Imperial troops were used to put them down in North Africa, with the moral support of none other than St. Augustine. The Donatists believed that the true church was a holy church. The Catholic Church believed that the church was not just for saints but also for sinners Ė even for those who committed serious sins like adultery and those who compromised with the Romans instead of facing martyrdom.
What about us? We clearly used to be a perfectionist church, but these days we are facing the fact that for many of us perfection seems impossible. So we have evolved new institutions such as Chung Pyung, to deal with our imperfections and grant us grace even for serious sins. Is this a permanent situation? Will we become like the Catholic Church with its sacraments of confession, penance and absolution? And how will those of us who believe in a perfected community treat those of us who believe we have to accept imperfect sinners as full members of our community?
Finally, related to this, what about the question of intermarriage? When Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan, one lesson of this was that purity of lineage is less important than moral action. The priest and the Levite had pure lineages, but they could not inherit eternal life because they did not practice loving oneís neighbor. But the Samaritan, with his impure lineage, became the model of the person who does what is necessary to inherit eternal life. The one who shows mercy is more righteous than the one with the pure bloodlines. What will be our attitude toward those on the margins of our community with impure lineages? Will we shun them as some Jews shunned the Samaritans? Or will embrace them with open arms? This is not as easy a question as it seems, for if we embrace them with no conditions, what will be the consequences in terms of maintaining our standards with regard to the blessing of second and third generation couples?
There are no pat answers to any of these questions. In the final analysis, " How then shall we live on the community level?" can only be answered through experience. But itís important, I think, that we think about these things. And, as the saying goes, we should try to learn from the lessons of history, for those who fail do learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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