By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 (NASB)
The authenticating mark of our Christianity before an unbelieving world is our love for other believers. Jesus affirmed this through the words in today’s reading. Notice Jesus did not say that people will know that we are His disciples by wearing our Christian T-shirts or a WWJD bracelet, or having a fish symbol on our car, but rather if we love one another. Will they know us by our love? He didn’t say they would know us by our dress code or our doctrinal difference or dogmatic opinions – they would know us by our love.
In the early 3rd century, the church father Tertullian wrote:
It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us! ‘See.’ they say, ‘how they love one another … see how they are ready even to die for one another.’
From the very beginning, God’s plan was to develop a people that reflected His character. And what is His character? Love.
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another. 1 John 3:11 (HCSB)
Mother Teresa, when asked how she had accomplished such great things in her life, said this:
None of us can do anything great on our own, but we can all do a small thing with great love.
Paul told us to clothe ourselves with love. When writing to the church members at Colosse he said:
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:13-14 (NLT)
Or as another translation phrases that final verse:
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:14 (MSG)
The question that hangs in the air for us is this: what do others experience when they meet us? Do they encounter love? None of us ever fully lives up to this challenge, but that doesn’t mean we need to despair. Jesus called us His disciples, which means ‘learners’. A Christian is someone who is learning to love, to be more considerate, compassionate, caring, courteous and charitable. That requires us to be patient with each other as we journey in this process and to bear with one another.
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2 (TLB)