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How Will the World Recognize the Disciples of Jesus?
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. - John 13:34-35, ESV
If you're around my age, reading the title of this devotional and the Scripture passage above will cue music in your mind: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'lll know we are Christians by our love."
Sadly, we see many people in the world who wear the name of Christian and who show very little love. In our own lives, we are painfully aware of how often we fall far short of Jesus' perfect love standard. So, how can we understand this teaching of Jesus without sliding into a self-righteous bout of judgmentalism or a self-pitying/self-condemning guilt trip?
First of all, let's notice that Jesus says, "just as I have loved you." The key to being able to love like Jesus begins with being loved by Jesus. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us." We need to understand the free, full, forgiving, cleansing, reconciling love of Jesus for us, despite our sin, our shame, our guilt and our faithlessness.
For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:6-8, ESV
Secondly, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. More than anything else, this means that we are committed to each other and willing to sacrifice for each, not based on deservedness but based on need. In other words, when I look at my brother or sister in Christ, my love mindset should be focused on his or her need and how I can meet it, not on his own her merits and whether or not they are sufficient to deserve my compassion or my action.
We spend far too much time judging and condemning each other in our minds, often for things that are not even biblical standards - politics, school choices, clothing, personality traits, etc. I'm convinced that one of the main fuels driving such judgmentalism is our own sense of shame and inadequacy. Because we feel unworthy, we love dragging others down with us. Thus, we must return to "as I have loved you."
Bottom line: We can never give what we have not received, and we can never give more than we've received. We need to let Jesus love people through us with His love, a love that meets needs and does what needs to be done because it needs to be done. When we are loved by Jesus and let Him love others through us, we show the world clearly what Jesus' love looks like.
Prayer Based on Psalm 47:
Lord, let all peoples clap their hands!
Let them shout to You with loud songs of joy!
For You, Lord, the Most High, are to be feared,
as You are the great King over all the earth.
You alone have subdued our enemies under us,
and nations under the feet of Jesus.
You chose our inheritance for us,
kept in heaven by Christ our King!
You, O Lord Jesus, have gone up with a shout of victory,
with the sound of a trumpet,
You have been welcomed and seated in the heavenly places.
Let us sing praises to You, O God!
Let us sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For You, O God, are the King of all the earth;
let us sing Your praises with a psalm!
You reign over the nations;
You sit on Your holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to You, O God;
You are highly exalted!
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