“My belief is that if we love more, people will be more attracted to our church and we will keep more people in our church,” says Dr Bruce Manners, author of The Command, a new book from Signs Publishing. “Basically, love is the way of Jesus.”
According to Dr Manners, The Command “reflects my passion in ministry for a lot of years as a pastor.” Now retired, Dr Manners pastored a number of churches around Australia over 25 years, as well as serving as editor for the Adventist Church’s magazines for 15 years.
“One of the things this book allowed me to do was tell stories from my ministry that illustrate some of the things we could be doing,” Dr Manners explains. “How do we treat each other? How do we treat people we don’t like? I was really drawn into an experience I had with one of my parishioners in Canberra when I was there, who actually forgave the individual who killed three of her children. That was amazing—but that’s love.”
The “command” of the title are those commands presented repeatedly in the New Testament—Dr Manners points out just how often they are repeated—to love. “We are pretty strong on the Ten Commandments—as we should be—but it occurred to me that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the four commandments of Christ,” he urges. Those big four: “Love the Lord your God, love your neighbour as yourself, love one another and love your enemies.”
The Command also collects stories from Adventist and other churches around the world that are reaching out to their communities and making a difference by “loving like Jesus.” Discussion questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to consider what these commands mean in their own lives, churches and communities.
This discussion also has practical implications for responding to sensitive questions confronted in churches and families. “How do we love LGBTQIA+ people?” Dr Manners reflects. Sharing stories from his ministry in local churches that have addressed such questions, he includes the poignant experience of getting together the six mothers of LGBTQIA+ people in that congregation. “I think the big thing I learned as I dealt with some of those issues is that we can’t be Jesus to someone we shun.
“Christ’s ministry was one of love, so if we as a church could reflect that, we would be reflecting Christ,” he concludes.
The Command: Learning to Love Like Jesus is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online at https://adventistbookcentre.com.au/the-command.html