“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35). The world has a God-given right to judge our affiliation with Christ on the basis of our love for each other.
Jesus extends the connection between our love and His mission as One sent by the Father in John, chapter 17. Listen to Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and His followers who will come after them. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I give to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me” (Jn 17:20-23).
Twice in this passage Christ ties His claim to being sent by the Father to our unity as a community of believers. In essence, our love is a witness for the claims of Christ to a watching world. While we need to be clear on our content and teach pure doctrine, the world generally sees our content as just another option in the religion salad bar. What they can’t explain away is our love.
And our love is not just a witness to an unbelieving world “out there”, but is a strong testimony to our young people at the crossroads of staying or leaving the faith. You may recall that we started these posts about love as a way to address one particular complaint of those leaving the church; the complaint of “hypocrisy and lack of caring among church leaders.” Just as the love was the answer to strife, envy, and disharmony in the church at Corinth, love is also the answer to hypocrisy and lack of caring in today’s church.
These charges – hypocrisy and lack of caring – are both answered in Romans 12:9-10, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” When our love is genuine, when we abhor evil and cling to good, our lifestyle will agree with our words and hypocrisy will be defeated. When we honor and give preference to one another, we provide a powerful antidote to a perceived lack of caring.
When our young people judge the Christian faith on the basis of our love or lack of love, they are not being shallow, selfish, or overly emotional. They are merely doing what Jesus said to anticipate. Our role is to embrace the challenge and respond with a vibrant and relentless love not only toward each other but toward our seeking generations behind us as well.