"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
Real, Christ-like love. It can’t come naturally. Otherwise, why would Jesus have made it a command? He must have thought that somehow, someway, believers have the ability through the Holy Spirit to live a life of genuine love. Not only do we have the ability, we also have the responsibility. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that self-sacrificial love is the way that the world will know we are children of God. Notice that Christ did not say: "Men will know that you are my disciples, if you know many verses and have your theology solid..." or " Men will know that you are my disciples, if you attend church, and avoid all sin..." He simplified it for us- love one another.
How do we show this love you ask? I think it is best expressed through our unconditional acceptance of people regardless of race, creed or color. No matter if that person is kind to you, or treats you like dirt. If you agree with their lifestyle, or stand against it, all of these things are quite irrelevant when it comes to obeying God and loving others. If you set up any pre-requisites for loving others, then you are disobedient to Christ and ineffective in your witness.
Let's look at how this idea played itself out in the life of Jesus.
In John 4, Jesus is in a tense situation; He is a Jew, living in a land occupied by Romans. The Romans don’t like the Jews, and the Jews return that idea. Still, when Jesus is asked to heal a Roman official's son, He does it immediately — no strings attached, no power plays, no games.
Jesus does not hold grudges, he doesn’t require obedience before showing His love. He cares about people regardless of their personality, position, or possessions.
Luke 9:51-56 shows Jesus and His disciples walking through Samaria. Jesus was trying to teach a group of people who were rude and unresponsive. Ever met anybody like that? I know I have! What is your typical reaction? His disciples' reaction was to ask Jesus: "Do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?" Jesus basically replies, "No way! Are you crazy?" Evidently in Jesus' mind, anger, revenge, prejudice, and unloving attitudes are unacceptable.
As Christians we are called to hold each other accountable. Yet we should not use accountability as an excuse to harbor hatred or indifference. As well, we should not expect those who do not know Christ to live as we do. Unbelievers need to be shown that they will be completely accepted by the family of God. This acceptance should not come because of any qualifications or actions on their part, but because God loves them just as much as He loves you. God loves people unconditionally. So should we.
There are people in your schools who are lonely and don't fit in. Many feel ashamed and outcast for whatever reason. If we make anyone feel like an outcast because he/she is different, are we really showing Christ in our lives? If we check people out to make sure they're cool before we share the gospel, we are allowing our own perspective to interfere with God's work. This is a tragic mistake and blatant sin.
Often the error of non-acceptance turns people away from God and Christianity — possibly forever. They run as fast and as far away as they can in the other direction, seeking out other religions and organizations that will embrace them. At that point Satan and those he has lied to will stretch out their welcoming arms. If the enemy has the ability to "love" and welcome people, then we better be able to do it too.
Remember, people will go where they are accepted and stay where they are loved. Is your world a place where people want to stay?
Think About It:
1. Do you know anyone that could use some love expressed through acceptance?
2. Do the people in your circle of friends know you as a follower of Jesus because of your outward expressions of total love? Why or why not?