“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 John 2:3-5
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
When you’re walking down the street, how can you tell who the Christians are? Can you tell from a little cross seen on a necklace? Is it the t-shirt a young man is wearing? Perhaps you see them carrying a Bible in their hands, or you overhear them discussing the gospel with someone else? What truly clues you in to a person being a disciple of Christ? The truth is, unless you get into conversation or see someone in action with their faith, you cannot know whether or not they are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. You just can’t know. During World War II, the Nazis made Jews wear a large star of David on their clothing to identify them as Jews–because otherwise, no one would know. You couldn’t tell from their looks nor even really from their names, so they had to be marked to identify them as “other.” In some countries of the world today, personal identification cards carry a designation of one’s faith. Again, on the surface, you cannot truly tell someone’s faith, and so those countries seek some relatively sure method of identifying those who are Jews and Muslims and Christians and other religions.
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,
17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
We certainly don’t want to be marked as the followers of the Beast! So, what is the “mark” of a Christian? How will we and others know who the Christians are?
What I found interesting about today’s verses is that they say essentially the same thing–that we are known as disciples of Christ by our love–but they approach the identification, if you will, in different ways. Look again at what Jesus said in the Gospel of John:
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“By this ALL will know” He said. Not just our fellow believers, but EVERYONE. If we follow His commandment to love God and each other so completely, then the “mark” of Jesus will be unmistakable to the outside world.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The lamp of our faith “gives light to ALL who are in the house.” The love of Jesus personified in the lives and actions of His followers is a light for ALL to see and enjoy, for everyone to know the love of God that is in us.
But look again at the passage from the first epistle of John. Note how he ends verse 5: “By this WE know that we are in Him.” John is pointing out to us that we need to be seeing for ourselves if we are carrying the “mark” of Jesus–His love for God and all men–in our own lives. We need to measure our own faith against the life of Jesus. Am I loving? Am I forgiving? Am I righteously angry for the things of God? Am I truly being a light shining the in the darkness of the world? We are not to measure ourselves against each other but only ourselves against ourselves. (James 4:11-12) Am I growing in Christ, and do I honestly see that growing faith? And, of course, does the world see Christ through me?
“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.”
You see, it’s not the t-shirts nor the crosses nor the carrying of Bibles nor the bumper stickers nor even the talk about Jesus. And since we are no longer under the law, it is not by any rite of circumcision of the flesh, either. They and we will know we are Christians by our LOVE, by the way we bless in Christ’s name–and by the way we are blessed by Him ourselves. I know a man whose wife died quite suddenly a few years ago, and without hesitation, his friends at his little church rallied around him and provided for his family and lifted him up in faith and in love. They kept him strong and stayed by him through all his trials in that difficult time. When the man’s father came out for the memorial service, the father saw the church’s behavior and said, “This is what I always thought the church of Christ is supposed to be like: a family that loves without question or hesitation, a people who give selflessly. This is the kind of church I want to be a part of.”
We can be that church, you and I. We can be part of that group of believers who so embody the love of Christ that the outside world cannot help but sit up and take notice. We can mark ourselves not with the latest “Christian” fashions or music, but with service to others and obedience to God. That is what people saw in Jesus: love for and of God. When we live that in our lives, there will be no mistake whence it comes. And it is not that we are required to live a life of love in order to gain salvation. No, not at all! A life lived with love for God and our fellow men is simply our natural response to God loving us.
1 John 4:16-17
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
“As He is, so are we in the world.” As God is holy, so are we to be holy and set apart for Him. (Leviticus 19:2) As God is loving, so are we to be loving. (Matthew 5:43-48) As God is merciful, so are we to be merciful. (Luke 6:36) As Jesus was obedient even unto death, so are we to be obedient sons and daughters of God. (Philippians 2:1-11) God will judge each of us according to our faith in His Son, and it is that faith that will lead us to reflect the Son in our lives–reflect His love and His obedience, reflect His righteousness and His dedication to God’s kingdom, reflect His service and His desire that all men should be free.
By now, if you are not at least humming the old hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love,” then you ought to be. Truly, the love of God in Christ is lived out in the world through those who love God, who believe on His Son as the only way to salvation. It is by our lives lived in that salvation–lives redeemed from slavery to the flesh, lives full of the Holy Spirit, lives set upon the things of God rather than the things of the world–that the world shall know and glorify God. Yes, many will doubt our motives, and some will even revile and persecute us for living as we do, but if we are true to Jesus and redeem the time He has bought for us with His blood, then the world will know the one true and living God. And that, dear friends, is the only mark by which we need ever hope to be identified: that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of us all.
Dear Lord Jesus, may You be the only thing anyone sees in my life. May the mark of Your loved be stamped upon my life–and upon the lives of others through me. May no one ever see me nor glorify me for what I do, but may only Your love and Your Cross be proclaimed. Lord, may Your Holy Spirit guide me and teach me how to love as You do, so that they call me Christian for what I do and not for what I claim to be. Amen.