John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I quoted this passage in the message just this past Sunday, as a distinctive characteristic of a disciple of Jesus Christ. A Roman historian – today we would call him a biographer or commentator – said of the early Christians, “They really know how to love each other, and they really know how to die.” Could that be said of us today? What the Roman writer may not have realized was that the way the Christians died was as much a demonstration of love as their treatment of each other was. Their love for God, in response to His love for them, made giving up their physical lives a relatively minor thing. Also, as Jesus pointed out shortly after He said this, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The early Christians died rather than betray either their Lord or their friends. Whereas the pace of martyrdom continues to pick up, with more Christians being killed for their faith in the 20th Century than in the previous 19 combined, with even more intensity in the past 18 years, we also have an epidemic of complacent “fat cat” Christians who don’t even want to be inconvenienced for their faith. Both sides of that are sad, but the martyrs at least get a grand welcome in heaven! As Jesus warned us, in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) It has been said that the Church’s weakest area has been in making disciples, and this is a reflection of that. A true disciple loves their Lord, and they love their fellow disciples. It’s as simple as that. Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus ring out: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4) We need to examine our hearts, and repent.
This is to me as much as it is to anyone. I try to walk in love, and my relationship with my wife is a marvel to many who know us, but I am still less than loving at times in some of my interactions, and my obedience to my Lord is not perfect, betraying weakness in my love toward Him. (John 14:15) My mind is quick to come up with excuses for why some people are “unlovable.” None of those excuses hold up, because as Paul pointed out, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God certainly loved me while I wasn’t lovable, so I have no excuse. Looking back, I am amazed that God never squashed me, or threw me out with the garbage. The more I recognize and appreciate God’s love for me, the more I need to let that love flow through me to those around me, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I’m embarrassed that I need it, but grateful that You supply what I need. May I indeed be a clear, open channel of Your love, so that many may be drawn to You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!