Oh How We Love Each Other
An often misquoted bible verse is John 13:35. Ok maybe not misquoted, but selectively quoted. We love to tell the world "we will be known by our love", which is much easier to swallow than the whole verse - "this is how the world will recognize that you are My disciples - when they see love that you have for each other". We want to say that we are known by our love, because most times it is easy to love God. Until we're struck by tragedy, it is easy to love this God who forgives, who heals, who provides. We also love to be known for loving the poor. We give, we tithe, we plan missions trips and cake auctions and build wells, all in the name of loving the less fortunate. Both of these types of love - loving God and loving those less fortunate are wonderful and noble and necessary. I in no way want to distract from the important social justice projects happening around the world.
But it is a completely different story, a deeper one, to be known for how we love each other. If you've been in the church for any amount of time you know that loving Christians is hard. It is much easier to love Jesus, and the homeless man on the corner, than to love the sinful brothers and sisters that are the church. But this is what Christ leaves his apostles with. In this conversation around the table, He could have told them any number of things to be famous for - but His desire is that we would be famous for loving each other well.
It seems the early church of Acts was famous for how they loved each other. They got it. They lived it. If you came into that church community, you were cared for. You were loved with patience and kindness and peace. You learned love from the church. But somewhere along the way, at least for the western church culture that I find myself in, we lost our way. I can feel God's heart breaking because we've overlooked this.
Beloved, the things that are close to the heart of God are always the things that the enemy tries to steal.
And we've let him, haven't we? We gossip, we judge, we cover truth with lies and secrets. We are known by our church splits and pastor feuds, we are known by our harsh judgements and our silent excommunications. We are not called to show "tough love" to each other, we are called to be famous for our love. We are called to be defined by how we love each other.
Let's get back to our roots. Let's love our church family member who's suffering from depression the same way we love our neighbour who has cancer. Bring them a casserole and a hug and a kind word. Let's forgive with reckless abandon and encourage without limits. Let's love each other through the hardest season and the easiest, through pain and joy and disagreement. Let's sink in an ocean of grace for each other. Let's love each other as if our lives depended on it. The world is watching.