The people in an Ohio county were angry with the area’s red foxes because they had eaten some of the people’s domestic chickens and many of the wild quail. So 600 men, women and children formed a circle five miles across, walked through the woods and frightened the foxes out into the open by shouting. Inside of a shrinking circle the foxes ran about in panic, exhausting themselves. One fox would stop to snarl; another would try to lick the hand of its attacker. None were spared. Killing became a sport, and all of the foxes were clubbed to death. As the circle closed, the remaining foxes, not knowing what else to do, lay down to die.

There is no shortage of circles of destruction and death. But suddenly, into this culture of death, came an announcement: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

Today’s reading tells us where the Christian begins and ends and where the church finds its purpose: not with condemnation but with love. It’s a commandment. It’s a gift. And it’s new.