A few weeks ago, I saw another church sign that arrested my attention. This time it was in a good way. The sign read, "When we love Christ, we love others." As I thought about the message on the sign, I thought about how true that is, and how it pretty much sums up our profession of faith in Christ.
There are a lot of people going around who proclaim their devotion to Jesus, who stand up in churches every week and loudly sing of their love for him. Now, it's way above my pay grade to determine how many of those people truly belong to Christ, so I am not judging their spiritual state. I am simply putting this out there as an encouragement for all of us to look at how the way we relate to others matches up with who we say we are in Christ.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is spending time with his disciples on the night he was to be betrayed. He is giving them some last minute teaching and encouragement because he is going to be leaving them. One of the things Jesus gives to his followers is a new command. In Chapter 13, he says that the new command is to love one another as Jesus has loved us. This comes right after the Teacher performs a menial task and serves his disciples by washing their feet, and just before he lays down his life for them. Jesus says that this kind of sacrificial love for others is the way the world will know that we belong to him. In Chapter 15 Jesus calls us to keep his commands and obey his teaching, and then follows with the statement that his command is to love others.
In his first letter, John reminds his us of that command given by Jesus, and then goes on to state that love for others is a test of whether we are truly walking in the light or are still in darkness. John later says that our love for others shows that we have passed from death to life. If we hate, we are proclaiming that we are still in darkness. This love is to be shown, not by flowery words, but by action, by laying down our lives for others.
The command to love was given to followers of Jesus who were facing a world that was totally against them. They were told to love their fellow disciples because there was great danger that their fellowship could be destroyed if they weren't willing to give themselves up for one another. We don't face the same opposition that the early believers faced, but I would venture that all of us have either seen or experienced fellowships that have been destroyed by a lack of love. People have left churches, churches have split or dissolved because folks refused to think of others before themselves. Whole denominations have even come into existence because of a failure to love.
Some may say, "That's all well and good, but we don't have to show the same kind of love for those outside. Right?" I beg to differ. Jesus stated that the second greatest command was to love our neighbor. He also said that our neighbor was essentially anyone with whom we come into contact. The early church understood this. They were known for the love they showed each other and for the love they showed their pagan neighbors, even for the ones who persecuted them. The first Christians were known for their love. They were not known for their "spiritual" vocabulary, for their dress, for what they were against. Yes, they proclaimed truth. Yes, they were not afraid to speak out when a believer was not living out his profession. Yes, they proclaimed that Jesus was the only way, the true King. But, the sacrificial manner in which they lived out their lives in relationship to others put weight behind their words. They showed the world that this Jesus stuff was real and was life changing. With that they turned the world upside down.
Let us all look at our lives and ask ourselves if what we say we believe works out in our day-to-day relationships, both with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with those who don't don't know him.
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