By: Jon Bloom
Do people know that we are Jesus’s disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35)?
This is a good question, though perhaps not the best way to ask it. The use of the plural “we” can have an unhelpful distancing effect.
For instance, I might be prone to answer with a general critique of the state of love in “the church” and shake my head and lament how far “we” have drifted from the New Testament standard. In doing so, I can make myself appear to be more earnest about the New Testament love commands than others, and feel a subtle, false sense of superiority to the faceless mass of corporate “we” failing to love as Jesus instructed.
This kind of mindset typically results in nothing productive.
Me, Not We
I need to watch myself carefully when it comes to critiquing the church, because it’s so easy and cheap, yet can feel deceitfully significant. Analyzing and evaluating “the church’s” failure to love — and diagnosing, however correctly, large-scale theological, historical, cultural, and sociological forces contributing to this problem — can feel profound, when I’m actually not doing anything. Talking about the lack of Christian love mainly as an external problem places no personal, specific demands on me. This is not good, because Jesus doesn’t approve of love-talk with no love-deeds or love-change (1 John 3:18).
So, the way I need to frame the question is this: Do people know I am Jesus’s disciple by the way I love others?
I confess that my flesh wants to dodge this question because it places me alone in the spotlight — but that’s right where I need to be. It forces me to stop comparing myself with my own conception of “the church” at large and start comparing myself to Christ who said, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). And it helps me see the log of love-lack in my own eye, and my desperate need for God’s help to remove it.
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