Cornerstone Verses: John 13:35 “… if you have love”

35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another – John 13:35, NASB. 

aaron-burden-143103-unsplashPastor James Macdonald recently preached a series on what he called game changers. These were some of the individual verses that he said changed everything when it comes to our faith. A game changer is defined as “an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.” As I listened to his recent podcast, I couldn’t help but wonder what verses I would add to such a list. What verses are cornerstone verses? What verses are fundamental to the way we do church, discipleship, faith, and Christianity? While all Scripture is “God-breathed and useful for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16), certainly some verses can be considered building blocks that all Christians should be familiar with and eager to live out in their lives.

As I considered which verses I would include on such a list, John 13:35 was among the first that occurred to me. We know that Jesus taught us to love our enemies, but in this verse Jesus tells us that others will know we are His disciples because of our love for one another.

We are connected to Jesus by our love. It makes sense. When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior we become indwelled by the Holy Spirit. If God lives in us, and God is love, it is inevitable that His love will impact the way we view others. In fact, Scripture teaches that “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). It appears that the absence of love for other believers signifies there is something dreadfully wrong in the life of a believer. 

They Will Know Us By Our Love for One Another

We live amid a cultural climate that is characterized by many things, but love is not one 136aa4cc778661545ba36ff2d1069a2eof them. Divisiveness, bitterness, hatred, and outrage seem to be the themes of social media, but not love. A quick scan of Twitter will reveal that virtually everyone is mad about something. The left hates the right. The right hates the left. It seems everyone has picked a tribe and gone to war with others. We’re characterized by our skin color, politics, geography, sexual preferences, sports teams, and even diets. The vitriol can be smothering at times and it’s easy to get sucked in, but Jesus tells us that the Christian “tribe” should be identified by their love for one another. In fact, He tells us in John 13:34 that we should, love one another as He has loved us. Jesus is talking about sacrificial, unselfish, supernatural love. 

That’s a kind of love that will stand out in the world we live in. The love Jesus is talking about rises above mere tribalism. It’s bigger than skin color or nationality. It rises above politics. It puts others first and makes Christ the center of our lives. The love Jesus is talking about honors God. It is a kind of love that should naturally flow from Christians who are indwelled by the Spirit. In fact, its a kind of love that is impossible without the Holy Spirit. 

Too often, though, Christians choose to quench the Spirit by treating each other poorly. I’ve witnessed Christians on Social Media lambaste one another over politics, social causes, sports, and all sorts of other things that are inconsequential when compared to eternity. It’s even worse when such squabbles escape the confines of social media and infiltrate the local church. 

Let us never forget that we have been “raised to new life with Christ Jesus” (Colossians 3:1). It is a new life that should be characterized by our love for other believers. Everything we say and do should be filtered through that love because there is no cause greater than the cause of Christ. 

When in doubt, we should look to Christ as out example of love. And pray that others would see that love in us (John 13:15). 








Do They Know Us by Our Love?

thIf 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?