They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

To be honest, I love and hate the song “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.”

It’s an excellent reminder of the way things should be, and a painful reminder that often my experience has been that this is not the way things are. I think this is partially because Christians are sinners, saved by grace, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and we don’t have it all together yet. None of us is perfect. None of us have arrived. We still have our flesh, and there are temptations. We are justified by the blood of Christ, but we are still in the process of being sanctified (becoming Christlike in our character), and this is an ongoing journey for all the years we sojourn on this earth. No one arrives this side of Heaven.

Our fallen flesh aside, I think the simple fact is that everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike, have some amount duplicity in our lives. Selfish motives. Saving face. Caring little—or not at all—for those who do not love God, and sometimes even less for those who do. No one perfectly upholds every moral standard. And I certainly don’t expect non-Christians to uphold biblical, Christian standards. A.W. Tozer had something to say about this:

[Judas] showed one face to Jesus and His disciples and the other to the enemies of Jesus. Now that is duplicity. In Christian communion we ought to be a people without duplicity. Each one of us has only one face. I know that if you have more than one face to present to the public, something is desperately wrong. One of your faces is going to fall under an awful judgment of God. We must be without duplicity, dishonesty and hypocrisy. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is an old Greek word used for an actor on stage, somebody who pretended to be what he or she was not. . . . A hypocrite is an actor, somebody who is playing a part.

from Rut, Rot, Or Revival, by A. W. Tozer

I certainly agree that the ideal we should strive for is “zero duplicity.” However, any honest and self-aware person knows that while we can live our lives as best we possibly can, empowered by the Holy Spirit for holy living, we still live in a fallen and cursed world. We’re all on a recovery path (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) from the enslaving sin and fear we’ve been delivered from. It’s OK to be where we are at any given moment in our journey, as long as it’s a journey. We can’t become complacent and set up camp in enemy territory. We’re sojourners on this planet, making our way to our eternal Home, when we will finally be glorified. Read the book of Romans if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.

Back to the song for which this post is titled. The reason I “hate” this song is because the vast majority of the non-Christians I know (and I know a fair amount of them working in a large company in Corporate America) think Christians don’t love each other very well (they see all the in-fighting) and they think we hate the world (the posture of being against this or that “agenda” is much less compelling/inviting than a posture of being for Christlike love and unity). Evangelical has become a curse word. I don’t mind being hated by the world for loving Christ and living in a counter-cultural way. I do mind the stench that emanates from many who are have confused true Christianity with conservative nationalistic bullishness. Those who cannot differentiate between a political party or ideology and the Christian ethic described and exemplified by Jesus and His faithful apostles in the Bible.

God’s Word has a lot to say about how His people should treat one another; who we should love, and how we should love them. And it’s not even a suggestion. It’s the greatest commandment:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

Here is one of the verses I find most helpful and encouraging (and challenging to live by):

“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Colossians 3:13 ESV

There are many more verses and passages on unity and loving one another in the Bible. Do yourself a favor and do a study on this topic sometime.  I’d encourage you to read Ephesians 4, Psalm 133:1, 1 Peter 3:8. 

And consider The 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament*:

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)
6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)
7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)
8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)
11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)
12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)
14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)
16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)
26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)
27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)
31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)
32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)
34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)
39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)
41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)
45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)
46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)
49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)
50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)
52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)
53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)

*This list is taken from Carl F. George, Prepare Your Church for the Future (Tarrytown: Revell, 1991), 129-131.

To my Christian friends: Let’s strive to be authentic; embracing a culture of confession and repentance and testifying about what the Lord has done for us. Let’s strive to love one another, sacrificially, deferentially; with unity and our Christian witness in mind – even when we strongly disagree.

I want to be able to sing, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” with sincerity and without shame.

Lord, You know that in some situations, and especially with some people, we find it so easy to pretend. We find it easy to act as if you have not commanded us to love You with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Help us to be honest, humble, loving, and faithful. Help us to remember that You are the Judge, and we are not. Help us to love like Jesus, because of Jesus, and for Your glory as ambassadors of Christ to the world around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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