When I was in high school, I was befriended by a Jehovah's Witness. She, of course, was all too happy to try to "convert" me to the doctrine of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. One of the hallmark doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses is that although Christ may have had a special relationship to his heavenly Father, he was not the God of heaven and earth, incarnate in human flesh. Troublingly, the Witnesses even have their own skewed translation of the Bible, the New World Translation, which polemically mistranslates passages that clearly declare the divinity of Christ. For instance, the New World Translation renders John 1:1: "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Compare this to the New International Version which translates: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
When my friend first showed me her "translation" which calls Jesus "a god" rather than "the God," I was horrified. And although I did not know Greek at the time, I quickly began researching the original Greek grammar behind the English translations of this passage and I stumbled across something called Colwell's Rule. This rule was first formulated in 1933 by E.C. Colwell in an article he published for the Journal of Biblical Literature. In it, he states: "In sentences in which the copula is expressed, a definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb." Don't know what that means? That's okay, neither did I. But I did know that this made the translation of Jesus as "a god" very tenuous and unlikely. And I did know that Jesus was no second-rate divinity. He was and is the one, true God.
And so, I told my friend about Colwell's Law. I also gave her a veritable plethora of resources refuting the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses. And I made an appeal to her to believe in the Bible rather than in a centralized, and somewhat enigmatic, Watchtower society. My friend, however, remained un-persuaded. She told me, "Well, I guess you'll just have your beliefs and I'll have mine."
I was shocked. She refused to agree with me when it came to Christ's divinity! I was at a loss. After all, my study was impeccable. My linguistic theory was unimpeachable. My logic was irrefutable. How could she not agree with me?
I have since learned that there are many people who do not agree with me, no matter how persuasive I may think I am. I will often joke with my wife Melody and tell her, "You know, this world would be a much better place if everyone just agreed with me." But everyone does not agree with me. And this is where our reading for today from Romans 13 comes into play.
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (verse 8). According to the apostle Paul, love is the order of the day. But notice who we are supposed to love: our "fellowman." The Greek word for "fellowman" is heteros, meaning "different." In other words, Paul is encouraging us to love not only those who think as we do, believe as we do, dress as we do, and act as we do, but to love those even who are different from us. He is encouraging us to love even those who do not agree with us - even when we have impeccable study, unimpeachable linguistic theory, and irrefutable logic. We are to love everyone.
Is there anyone who is different from you or disagrees with you whom you have failed to love the way you should? If so, now is the time to repent of your unloving heart and reflect God's love toward that person. Mind you, loving someone different from you does not necessarily mean that you accept their positions or actions, especially if they're sinful or false, as are those of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but it does mean that you treat others the way Christ would treat them: with care, concern, and compassion. After all, love - true love - has a way of bridging divides, breaking barriers, and binding up brokenness. And that's something that we all need... no matter how heteros we might be from each other.