A New Command

Today I counted them: seven emails that ended with “if you’re really a Christian, you’ll pass this on to ten friends,” or something similar. And nineteen of my “friends” on Facebook posted pithy sayings, Scripture quotations, and inspiring photos with a quasi warning: “only those who are really Christians will hit ‘share’.”

Recently, someone was helping me load my car after a presentation at a church and as the trunk was closed he said, “I’m surprised you don’t have a sign or bumper sticker that says you’re a Christian.” Without even thinking I said, “I hope I don’t need a label.”

I looked around the parking lot and almost every vehicle had some kind of fish (ichthus) or symbol that most people would interpret as “religious.” Over the next few weeks as I visited churches and navigated the highways I was keenly aware of those markers.

Are they really necessary? Do I actually need to forward those emails and share those posts on Facebook so that others will know I have chosen to follow Jesus?

No.

Jesus never referred to his followers as Christians, only disciples. And this is what he said to them: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35.

Jesus commands his followers to love each other with the same kind of self-less, sacrificial love he showed to us by dying on the cross! He does not tell us to obey all the rules, dress a certain way, vote for a particular party or only use the organ when we sing hymns. Love one another.

The directive seems so simple – why do we find it so very difficult?

The pastors of the Pekin Ministerial Association have been trying to model this “love one another” command by setting aside our differences in doctrine, methods, and style in order to meet practical needs in our school district. But that isn’t enough. All of us who claim to follow Jesus are obligated to love each other. No permission is given to not love someone for any reason whatsoever. Love one another.

Our love for one another as Believers in Christ is what should set us apart. How are we doing?

Jesus said it, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”

FYI – Historically, the term “Christian” began as a derogatory, demeaning, and bigoted label. I imagine the Believers who received Paul’s letters at Ephesus, Philippi, and Corinth would be flabbergasted that the term has any positive connotations at all!

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