Rev. Bill Poland
Director of New Communities of Faith and Director of Connectional Ministries
I begin by saying that I love God and I love you. I love you because, I do not believe there is any way to love God without loving you. I certainly don’t believe I can follow Jesus without loving you. Wesleyan heritage emphasizes the practical nature of theology that defines holiness as going on to be perfected in love, our love of God and one another.
Theologically, I define myself as a practical mystic. I believe in the ever-present Spirit of God at work in my life, the lives of others, and in the whole of creation itself. The essence of that Spirit is love. I believe real love unites us. It is defined and lifted up in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Jesus in each of the gospels affirms the greatest commandments are the love of God and neighbor. He never qualifies it. In fact, when other’s try, as in Luke 10, Jesus turns their thinking on its head. In the Sermon on the Mount, he goes on to say that we should love even our enemies and pray for those who do us harm. Finally, in John’s gospel, Jesus commands us to love others as he has loved us.
That is the gift of grace I want to give to the world. I want all of us, in the United Methodist Church to be known by it. I think you will agree Jesus does too.
When we reflect the division that exists in the world, dividing us from them, we diminish that witness. I long to be a church that embraces diversity of thought in order that we might learn from each other and grow in our capacity to love. I have learned the least from people who think, and act like me. I have learned the most from those who think and see the world differently than me but have chosen to love me in our differences. It was that kind of love that brought me into the church and will keep me here in the future. I do believe theology is important as it shapes our understanding of God, but our theology will always be incomplete. How can we suppose to define our God who is infinitely beyond our comprehension? I hold the faith contained in our Basic Christian Affirmations (¶102) the Apostles Creed. They shape my core. I believe the world needs Jesus and the salvation of the world is dependent upon the way we follow him. Human division, greed, disparity of wealth, human displacement and migration, and global warming are all issues of stewardship and love.
I began with the affirmation that I love God and I love you. I conclude the same way. I will go further to say I need you, just as God created you, just as you are now, in order for us all to become all that God intends us to be. So, bring your culture, your ethnicity, your theology, and most of all your hope, faith, and love. And let’s be the church together.
Read the previous Leading Now personal reflections here.