How can you recognize someone who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers? By their unique markings. Black and gold hats, jerseys, and terrible towels (horns are optional) are quick identifiers of some of the most radical football fans across the globe. But it’s not just the Steelers! Sports fans of all types adorn themselves with the colors and logos of their favorite high school, college and professional sports teams.
In recent years young people especially have resorted more to markings as personal identifiers. Tattoos and piercings, which were once considered out of the ordinary, are commonplace today.
Evangelical Christians have their own marks. We use bumper stickers, T-shirts, heavily underlined Bibles, etc. to show the world around us that we belong to Christ and that they should as well. And while all of these things are useful and have their place, there is one unique mark that for centuries has identified true followers of Christ. Without this particular identifier the rest mean little in our efforts to win the world to Jesus.
“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NET)
Now hold on a minute! Isn’t this a bit extreme? To say that my love for other Christians is a primary indicator of my relationship with God is really pushing things! After all, there are so many professing Christians out there who are especially difficult to love—even for spiritual people like us. How could God expect something so difficult from His followers? It just isn’t natural.
And this, my friends, is exactly the point. Unconditionally loving others who are often unloveable is unnatural. That’s why it is the mark of a true disciple of Christ. We can only love others as we are filled with the supernatural love of God. How do you recognize someone who loves God? By their genuine love for other Christians.
Do we understand the depth of the significance of this truth? To love God means to sincerely love others. I am not saying we should be enablers, helping people to continue in their sins, but I do believe that a heart surrendered to God is reflected by attitudes of compassion, gentleness, generosity and forgiveness toward our fellow Christians–regardless of their ability to meet our standards of perfection.
Do you want to get the world’s attention with the timeless, hope-filled message of the Gospel? Love your brothers and sisters in the church down the street. Love is a mark that the world can never erase.