"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
– John 13:35 (NLT)
Have you ever really thought about that verse? Has it ever occurred to you that your love for your fellow man is the evidence of the lordship of Christ in your life? That cuts me pretty deep, on occasion…ok, daily. This verse bears a heavy weight, and we all should pay close attention.
Notice that it does not say “the love that you show to your fellow man.” Oh, if it were only that simple. Showing love to someone is cheaper and easier than actually possessing the real thing. Correct? We all know people who have an abundance of good works, who are heavily involved in ministry, who have open displays of love and worship, who smile a lot, and who relentlessly declare their love for God. These people appear to be wonderfully put together disciples of Christ, until their thinly veiled and extremely superficial Christlike facade falls off and shatters in the church parking lot…sometimes only a few feet from the front door of God’s house. At that point, the reality of their heart begins to speak a much different message than their previous words and actions have foretold.
Who are these people? We all know them, because, more often than should be the case, “they” are “us.”
Matthew 12:34 says, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Just like the statement “You can’t hide your crazy” is true…you also can’t hide a heart full of sin and evil. Trust me; I have one; it can’t be done; I've tried.
There's a lot of wonderful things found within the narrative of Scripture. Epic stories of God's faithfulness fill each book. His provision, His discipline, His compassion, His mercy...all distinct reflections of the character of a God who, at His very core, is a God of love. Love is of utmost importance to God. Love is what held Jesus on the cross, and love is God’s distinctive plan for our lives. It would benefit us to know just how important it is.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”" – Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
If you’re trying to love someone, and you just can’t seem to bring yourself to that level of emotional and spiritual sincerity towards them, then pray for God to soften your heart toward them. At least you’re moving in the right direction. If you have an outright hatred in your heart towards another, then understand that God is playing absolutely no role whatsoever in that decision. And, ultimately, understand that God sees us from the inside out. I Samuel 16:7 tell us, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
The insincere outward displays of love that we often recklessly throw on the table, in an attempt to convince God and the world that we are sterling top-tier examples of Christ, fall short of the marker of a true disciple of Christ found in John 13:35. God knows our motives and the genuineness of love we possess, and, by the truth found in Matthew 12:34, we will, to our great dismay, find that others will also come to that same knowledge. Consequently, we can’t hide our “loveless” heart towards others, a heart not reflective of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Today is a new day. We will all be faced with many opportunities. Be careful; some of those opportunities will be disguised as problems. Many of those opportunities will exist in interactions with difficult people. They may even cause you a little frustration and grief. Or, maybe, they will cause you an immense amount of frustration and grief. Either way, expect some of that today, and be prepared to respond with a heart full of love.
Life is a compilation of very distinctive moments, and we have the power to engage those moments, and the people we encounter through those moments, in any way that we choose. We are seldom in complete control of the discourse of a particular interaction with someone, nor are we in complete control of the direction that particular conversation will take, but we are in complete control of our response to what occurs within that conversation. In the things that we can control…choose to love.
There is nothing that releases the power of God in your life faster than quick and deliberate obedience to His commands, and He has commanded us to love one another, regardless of opinion, politics, or our SEC team affiliation (and their subsequent win/loss record at seasons end). A genuine love for our fellow man is a marker that Christ legitimately dwells within us. When we allow Christ to be Lord, we love more freely and with greater authenticity. When we choose to seat ourselves on the throne, it is our flesh nature which prevails and exposes the disability shared by all mankind…sin. Don’t strive for superficial and fake representations of love to others; instead, strive to love others as brothers and sisters…co-creations of a God who views all men through the eyes and the purposely shed blood of a loving Savior.
Today, be Jesus to your world, and choose the path that is a reflection of Christ's sincere response to you. Choose to genuinely love.
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Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!