People in general want to feel like we are part of something. That we belong somewhere. We want to be involved in something bigger than ourselves and to feel like we matter to someone. Groups we join typically want to be recognizable by other people as a group. Maybe they make a t-shirt or give membership cards. Being a Christian is like that, except we shouldn’t have to have a t-shirt, necklace, or bumper sticker for people to know that we are Christians. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those, but there’s a recognizable way we should be living – in love.
Jesus told His disciples that they should love each other. This love should be the way Jesus loved them (John 13:34). That love was strong enough that Jesus gave His life for them. That depth is what Jesus expects from us. Then He explains one effect of disciples having that love.
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
If we truly love each other the way that we should, people will realize we’re Christians. The word that Jesus used here in the Greek for love is agape – the deepest kind of love. It is not a selfish love, and it doesn’t have expectations of the person who is loved. It means that person is loved just because they are valuable for being themselves. Agape love is a choice in which you choose the best for the person you love. (There’s a post I wrote here in more detail about what it means if you’d like to read it.)
So for people to know we are God’s children, we shouldn’t have to carry around a neon sign. It’s definitely not wrong to tell people we are Christians, and we shouldn’t be ashamed we are. But people should be able to see a difference in us without being told. There are many ways to show agape love, but I’d like to mention three here.
First, we should spend time with our fellow Christians. We need to get to know each other. That’s part of why we should be glad to go to Church weekly; we get to see people we care about. It’s hard to show someone love if we don’t know what is going on in their lives.
Second, we should be there for each other. In real ways. Not just telling someone who is having a bad day we will pray for them, and then doing it, although that’s part of it. When someone needs something, we need to be there. Maybe it’s helping an elderly couple paint the inside of their house. It could be sharing clothes with the family whose house burned down. Sometimes it’s giving someone a ride to Church when they don’t have the money for gas. This goes back to the first way to show love – how can we be there for each other if we aren’t available to know what other people need?
Third, we should be united. Families do have disagreements, but don’t they try to keep them private, and avoid letting the rest of the world see their “dirty laundry”? That’s how we should be. People outside the Church have no reason to know that a sister offended you last week because she didn’t like your dress. (Or whatever the problem may be. You get the idea.) So when we are around people especially who aren’t Christians, it’s not the time to be gossiping or telling embarrassing stories about our Church family. Let’s keep it nice or keep it quiet.
Love like this isn’t something that comes naturally. We, including myself, need to grow in it. The best way to do that is to practice it. So this week, think about your brothers and sisters at Church. What can you do for them? What is the best thing for them? Yes, it can be exhausting. But when you have a family who practices agape, their light will really be as bright as a city on a hill.
May the Lord bless and keep you,