“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 ESV)
As a pastor, I have to wonder from time to time, what kind of message does the world get from the church when the two interact together. I understand that in this same gospel account that Jesus taught that the world would hate us because it hates Him, but then we find this line in John 13:35. So the thing that is supposed to mark the church, the thing that is supposed to show the world that we are Jesus’ disciples is our love for one another. How are we doing?
If we look at the media, the thing the world seems to get from the church is that it is filled with intolerant, bigoted haters. Sometimes, when you stand for the truth of Scripture, you’re going to be accused of that. I can accept that. But if they were to see us in the church setting, or even church folk interacting with each other out in the world setting, what would they see, what message would they get?
In a discussion on a similar topic with our Young Adult group the other night, we discussed what genuine love looks like and why genuine love should be something true believers are marked by (based on Romans 12:9). We talked about phoniness, and the self-seeking ways love is understood in the world, and that believers, having been loved differently by God, are able or at least should be able to show genuine love to others. All too often, relationships rise and fall based on a “what’s in it for me?” kind of attitude. Do we love someone else based on how they will treat us in return. Loving someone means we will have to risk something, it may require “getting dirty” and being inconvenienced along the way.
A number of years ago, when our families lived closer together, my brother had been to our home a number of times to help with some “fix-it” project I was working on. I remarked to him at the time about how I felt that I owed him, because he was more often helping me with projects at my house than I was helping him with projects at his house. He said something pretty profound that has stuck with me through the years. “Family means we don’t keep track of that.” What he meant was that because we were brothers, he was not keeping track of how many more times he was helping me than I was helping him. That’s just what family member should do for one another.
It seems to me this is more what it should look like in the church. We show love to one another, not because of what we expect in return, not because of the benefit to us, but because we are family, we are brothers and sisters, children of our heavenly Father. We stumble and fall, we get it wrong from time to time, we go through difficult times in our lives, but our church family should be one place we can count on being treated with genuine brotherly love because we have been so incredibly loved by our heavenly Father.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen