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This is part of a series of posts based on the Churches Together in England publication one light: one world. If you click on the link you will find the biblical texts. This post of the same name covers the purpose of this series.
1 John 4: 7 - 11
I'm a little surprised to find this passage amongst the ecumenical texts. On a superficial reading it is a 'no brainer'. Of course we're supposed to love one another. We've already seen that the unity of Christians is the glory of God.
The problem is, to state we should all love one another is to beg the question, why the lack of unity in the first place? Ecumenism is difficult because it is about the unity of people who belong to separate institutions.
Institutions have a positive role. They are the means by which the faith is passed on. To be formed as a Christian, it is beneficial if you are part of a community, under a similar discipline. So, institutions are inevitable and can be beneficial.
That is, to a degree. The problem is, when people belong to institutions they start to identify with them. Sometimes this can become irrational. From claims that women cannot be priests to the belief that my tradition is the only true church, the institution becomes an idol.
Where this happens the institution becomes demonic. But a demon is simply a sick angel and where we use our institutions wisely, share and learn to love one another's institutions, we find they become angelic.
The message is we need our institutional differences and we need to learn to love them, just as we know we must love other Christians.