They Will Know We Are Christians by…

Well, it was just Valentine’s Day, and we had a great one – large thanks to my wonderful wife, Erin, who plans amazing experiences for us.  Gourmet tacos, classic Italian food, and a relaxing brunch.  It was great!  There were even one or two museums mixed in there between all the food, I think.  Seriously.  I ate a vegetarian taco and loved it, so you know it must have been a magical weekend!

Anyway, all this talking about love has led to some thinking – and that thinking has now led to some writing, and quite possibly (since you’re reading this!) some reading.  Awesome.

You know, there’s an old Jars of Clay song called, “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.”

Just kidding!  I know that’s actually a hymn, around long before Jars of Clay was cool – which, admittedly, was a while ago.  In fact, it’s not even original to the hymn writer.  It’s a direct quote from Jesus!  (Fancy that!)

John 13:35 (NLT) – “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Or, if you’d rather have something more formal, here’s the NRSV:

John 13:35 – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In this part of the story, Jesus is gathered with his disciples to celebrate Passover.  He’s surprised them all with a shocking display of what it means to be a servant – what it means to serve each other, to love each other.  He’s taken the time to go from disciple to disciple, washing their feet.  One of the most menial tasks possible, meant for a servant – and here Jesus is performing it as an object lesson for his followers.

Then they eat with Him.  Judas leaves to go betray Him to the authorities.  Jesus knows he has very little time left – in fact, he says as much.  Here’s the relevant section:

John 13:33-35 – “Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going.  So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Love each other.  Love each other like Jesus had loved them.  They had to know what that meant!  They’d spent the better part of three years following Him, learning from Him, watching Him love people.  They’ve heard him teach that everything taught in the law and the prophets could be summed up in two commands – love God and love others.  They’d just spent an evening shifting uncomfortably (I like to imagine!) as He washed their feet, demonstrating that love.

They don’t realize it yet, but in a few more hours, he’s going to demonstrate that love yet again by willingly dying for them – in fact, he’s going to die a horrible death, and even as it happens, he’s going to FORGIVE the very people torturing and killing Him.  That’s an amazing example of love for his disciples.

And what will they one day remember?  That right before Jesus did all this?  He gave them a “new commandment” – to love each other just like He loved them.  In fact, he went so far as to say that the rest of the world should recognize them as Christ-followers because of their love.

According to Jesus, the defining mark of being a Christian should be our love.

Is it?  Is that what we’re known for?  I’m not sure.

If we’re known more for our political party than for our love, we’re failing.

If we’re known more for our picket signs and boycotts than for our love, we’re failing.

If we’re known more for our angry Facebook posts and tweets (and blogs!) than for our love, we’re failing.

But get this – there’s a flip side to this argument as well.  Even if what we’re known for is something good, something positive, something beautiful – if we’re known for that more than for our love, we’re still failing.

If we’re known more for our beautiful buildings than for our love, we’re failing.

If we’re known for our amazing choral productions than for our love, we’re failing.

If we’re known more for our awesome worship and praise than for our love, we’re failing.

If we’re known more for praying and preaching than for our love, we’re failing.

If you know me (and I’m not sure you can truly know anyone from a few blog posts), but if you know me, and you know me more for anything than for being a loving person, I’m failing, and I repent and ask for your forgiveness.

I want to reach for that goal set for me by Jesus Christ.  I want to be known first and foremost, for my love.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *