“Walking the Anglican Way” is the way of the middle; there is a lot of freedom here. It helps those of us who have come from other traditions. I bring an evangelistic heart learned from the Baptists but also a heart for the poor learned from John Wesley’s followers (including not only the Methodists but The Salvation Army and the Pentecostals). The Anglicans took me in with all of my ecclesiastical baggage. Another camp are the contemplatives, and so I was not at all surprised when I heard that my pastor, Father Thomas McKenzie, is connected to the Benedictines (a Roman Catholic school of thought and way of living). I’d visited that camp before, and was glad to buy a copy of a book he recommended, LIVING WITH CONTRADICTION, Reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict by Esther De Waal. I have not been disappointed.
Jesus said to remember these two things: Love God with all my heart and my mind and my soul, and love my neighbor as myself. While at some level I understand the words, I have found them increasingly difficult to live out. Actually, God who is never rude or unkind and who came to earth and died for me is pretty easy to love. The other part is what gets me. Not “who is my neighbor?” but how do I work this out when I recognize them? What if they don’t want to know me or my Jesus? What if they maintain distance from me for whatever reason? Where do boundaries come in? You can see that I’d got myself in a muddle.
A question that I have not seen addressed exactly is, “Why should I love myself?” Not that I don’t think of myself: my needs, my wants, my fears, my hopes and dreams, because of course I do, a lot. But from God’s point of view, why should I love myself? Haven’t I failed Him? That is exactly the kind of thinking that contradicts Jesus’ best for me. It might sound like humility, but actually it is pride. It begs for some kind of approval: No, really, Carol, you’re great! But as De Waal discusses in a chapter called “Living with Myself,” I am not loved because of anything that I do. The world tempts me to think this way. How much money do I have? How many degrees have I earned? What title have I achieved? Am I lovable enough? As De Waal says: What I need to remind myself of time and again, until I am at last convinced, is that I am loved and accepted by God just as I am (p. 46).
Now here is the part that frees me (quoting De Waal again):
And now look at what we so often do to people: we batter them with our demands and expectations, we try to influence them to behave in a certain way, we subtly manipulate them to do the things that will please us…though of course we would maintain that it is only for their own good.
The Anglican Way, the Middle Way, is the way of love. Whatever loving my neighbor means, it does not mean seeking to control them even when it looks like they’re on the path of destruction. That’s what I have heard today. Love having been loved offers hospitality and generosity to all in Christ’s name. But it is Christ who is the real host at the table.