“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (I John 3:14).
You see those Christian people meeting in that little cluster there? They’re a strange lot, aren’t they? They have odd customs and their own language, and some can be perplexing. Okay, I want you to love them.
You say it’s hard? Friend, you don’t know the half of it. But that’s what you’re going to be doing.
And when it happens, when you find yourself cherishing this oddest of people on the planet, that’s when you will know you are born again and destined for eternal life.
But not until then.
There is one way and one way only you are going to be able to love all Christian people. You’re going to have to be born again.
You’re. Going. To. Have. To. Be. Born. Again.
Because you cannot do this in the flesh.
It’s unnatural to love that bunch.
They’re Christians, yes, but not all are, shall we say, “very Christian.” Some of them have a long way to go.
The Lord did not say we are to love the mature, the Christlike, those who exhibit the virtues of love, joy, peace, and so forth.
We are to love them all.
Immediately before Jesus said “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:34-35), notice what happened…
–Jesus washed the disciples’ feet against the protests of Simon Peter (13:8).
–Satan put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. (13:2,27)
–The Lord announced His coming departure, something that totally perplexed the disciples (13:31-33).
Immediately after the Lord said “by this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another,” notice what happened…
–Jesus predicted that Simon Peter would deny Him three times. (13:38)
–The disciple Thomas said he had no clue what Jesus was talking about. (14:5)
–Disciples Philip (14:8) and Judas (14:22) had questions which revealed they were still trying to figure Jesus out.
The point being…
These Christians are a motley crew. They are all over the place theologically, in their understanding of who Jesus is and what His mission is.
It is not going to be easy to love them.
It might even be considered unnatural, since it’s certainly not something we would automatically do, love those who can be totally weird.
Loving. All. Followers. Of. Jesus. Is. Not. Easy.
They will make glaring mistakes. They may run the preacher off. They may bicker and argue. They certainly did in the various New Testament churches. (You have read First Corinthians, haven’t you?)
Love them anyway.
At the very least, love them in the way we are told to love our enemies. In Luke 6:27ff, our Lord said loving our enemies involves four most basic actions:
–Do Good to them.
–Bless them. That is, say positive, helpful words to them.
–Pray for them. Ask God to do His will for each one.
–Give to them. A gift with no barbs attached, no hooks, no subtle underhanded meanings. Just pure love.
So, let the church of the Lord Jesus Christ be characterized by love.
Let the Methodists love the Baptists. Let all of them love the Churches of Christ, the Churches of God in Christ, and the Pentecostals. The Episcopalians and the Catholics and the independents.
Love them regardless of where you disagree with them.
And don’t come in here quoting Amos about “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Because the answer is ‘Yes, they can.” If they are agreed on One Big Thing: Jesus Christ is Lord.
And that’s what defines a Christian, after all.