Jesus told His disciples they would be recognized as being Christians by the way they loved one another.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35). He also told us to show love to everyone — our neighbors and our enemies.
Paul tells the Christian to extend that love even further, we are to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us.” (Eph. 5:2). To walk in love means being loving and kind all the time.
We Christians should be shining that light of Christ to the world; yet is it often impossible to distinguish a Christian from anyone else by the love standard.
Take the lady impatient in traffic, tailgating someone in the left lane who is going over the speed limit, but not fast enough for her. She finally gets him to move over and zips by displaying a “Jesus Loves You!” bumper sticker. If that man is a non-Christian, this reinforces his belief that Christians are hypocrites.
How about the large church group having dinner out in a local restaurant? The waitress runs herself ragged for an hour and a half, serving the entire group, who then depart leaving a pittance for a tip, along with a Christian tract. How is that waitress impressed with Christ’s followers and Christ’s message? How likely is she to even read that tract? Of all people, Christians should know that an acceptable tip for good service has been 20 percent for years now.
Or what about the new-in-town couple visiting a church thrift store, and overhearing the volunteers gossiping about each other and the pastor, and complaining about the church service? How likely will that couple be to come and visit that church?
Then there’s the high school student who has accepted Jesus into his heart, but can’t let go of his old friends and their worldly ways. How is his life of compromise a witness of Christ’s love to those friends? Will they too find the Lord through their friend’s example?
And will the Christian businessman be an example of Christ’s love, purity, honesty and charity in the marketplace as well as in his church? Will he be a beacon of light to his clients? Or will his off-color language, overcharging ways and refusal to cut the poor man some slack make him indistinguishable from the worldly businessman?
When we leave the church sanctuary Sunday morning, do we carry our Christianity with us, or do we park it at the church door?
Can our unsaved loved ones see the love of Christ in our lives? Or do they only hear us spouting Christian platitudes at them?
I believe God is calling Christians to stop playing at Christianity, and step up and be Christians.
To return to the ideal of love Christ presented us with, and take seriously the mandate to love one another, our neighbors and our enemies.
To wear our Christianity in our hearts and not just on our bumpers and T-shirts. To act like we are Jesus’ disciples wherever we are.
Can we do it? I believe we can. “My little children, let us not love with word or with tongue; but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18 NAS).
The Rev. Anne Barber, pastor of My Father’s House Church, 7215 U.S. 301 N. Ellenton. can be reached at 776-9016 or by visiting www.myfathershouseinc.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.