If I could sum up the primary role of the Christian in the world today, I would say it is to reflect the love and grace of God onto their fellow human beings. Thank about it for a bit. When asked what the greatest commandments were, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Christ said this was the greatest commandment. He then said the second greatest commandment is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Many passages in Scripture take a great of study, prayer, and contemplation to truly understand, however, Christ’s words in Matthew 22 are amazingly clear and simple. Christians should have deep, abiding love for God and their fellow human beings. We should recognize that everyone we meet is a unique creation built in the image of God. We should love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). The Bible even suggests that if we fail to love others in the proper manner, it will be impossible for us to adequately love God (1 John 4:20).
So I must wonder … if God’s Word is so clear, why do I so often fail to display love in my life? In fact, why does the Church so often fail to do so? Think about it for a bit – we’re not talking about the minutiae of Christian living; rather, we’re talking about the main theme that should be running through our lives. Love is not one attribute among many in the Christian life – is is the single most defining attribute of a Christian – so much so that others should recognize Christians because of the love we have for one another (John 13:35).
Christ says loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments for us to live by. So I must ask … Do others recognize you as a disciple of Jesus Christ because of the love you display in your life?
The answer to this very important question may be embarrassing. It may be a bit humbling. Heck, we might even be offended if someone suggests we don’t love as we should; however, I would submit the world does not primarily recognize Christians (and the Christian Church) by our love.
If we’re not recognized by our love, how are we recognized? Here’s a list I’ve compiled:
- They know us because we hate homosexuals.
- They know us because we shared that Facebook image. You know the one, “Share in 30 seconds or you don’t love Jesus.”
- They love us because they’ll have to pry our guns from our “cold, dead hands.”
- They know us because we believe in a young earth.
- They know us because we are Republicans.
- They know us because we are Democrats.
- They know us because we think most science is bunk.
- They know us because of the tee shirts we wear.
- They know us because we’ve told them recently they’re going to burn in hell.
- They know us because we go to Church every Sunday.
- They know us because we roll our eyes if we see someone drinking a beer.
Do you get my point? We bend over backwards to make sure the world knows what we’re against. We have a little checklist of beliefs we use as a litmus test of true Christianity. Our list may even be right every once in a while, but that’s not the point. Christ says they should recognize us because of our love.
What keeps the church from loving as it should? What keeps you and I from loving as we should? Sometimes, I think we’re afraid to love others as we should because it will be misconstrued as condoning the sin in their lives. However, we need to understand that love is an essential ingredient in dealing with the sin in our lives. In fact, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Love is the context in which we should share the gospel, cure the sin addiction in the world, and create disciples. Outside of that context, the world will never recognize us as belonging to Jesus Christ.
I must admit that I do not love as I should. My goal is to foster a love for God and a love for my fellow human beings as Christ instructed. I want to give love the attention it deserves. After all, Christ told me love was the most important commandment.
Will you join me?