For many years I was under the impression that if I lived a peculiar enough life, a devout enough life, or a very holy life, others would look at me and automatically know I was a Christian. After all, I’m a pilgrim. Though I’d read the entire Bible before, somehow I’d missed a few things (a gracious understatement).
So I was a bit taken aback a little over a year ago, when my husband quoted John 13: 35, and shared with me that it lists the undeniable identifier of a disciple of Jesus: love for one another.
Love for the fellow-believer is capable of breaking down and casting away political differences, racial differences, and even theological differences.
Unity can be a scary word to many cautious Christians, but it shouldn’t be when that unity flows from the brotherhood that the Gospel gives us. (Yes, the New Testament does address separation in certain cases, but it addresses unity far, far more.) It’s easy to love those who return the love to us: to the friend who bestows us a gift at our baby shower, to the person who writes an encouraging comment, to the sister who brings us a meal while we’re sick. Of course; the Bible says as much, too. I mean, that’s so easy to do that even the most-hated-unkind-Jews-of-the-era-tax-collectors could do that.
Okay…so I need to love those I wouldn’t choose to love. But that’s when I pull out the “tough love,” and “I need to speak the truth in love.” (They come with free proof texts, too.) So I buckle up, grit my teeth, and go…show some love?
While there are occasions where love may, and perhaps must, be expressed as said above, it’s all too easy to forget our Bible actually comes with a very clear description of what love is, then what it is not, then what it is again. A.k.a., 1 Corinthians 13. (Somehow, what we often label under “tough love,” isn’t listed as a 1 Corinthians 13 love-descriptor.) Christ also tells us we have an example of how to love other believers: just as Christ loved His disciples, as He spoke in John 13:34, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
But really, the verse can speak instead of these feeble attempts:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35
There is so much to learn about love. After all, on the commands to love God and love man hang all the law and the prophets. Love is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. And it’s so hard. I can’t do it in my own strength, but in the strength of the One who loved me so much that He laid down His life for me.
But it’s probably a good place to start out by realize that love for one another is indeed the undeniable mark which Christ spoke as some of His final words to His disciples. So while the blogs, social media, magazines, and commercials are abuzz with love, this is one aspect I want to be thinking about as Valentine’s Day “season” rolls in..