What is the hallmark of a Christian?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
It is by your love that others will know you as a disciple of Christ, not by how frequently you attend church. You are defined by your unconditional love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
The passage above is very clear on the true meaning of love. The Bible calls it greater than everything else. Neither wealth, nor possessions, nor position can bring us happiness, and if we do not love, we are nothing. The Bible also tells us that God is love, and if we do not have love, then we are not of God.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:5-8)
God Himself died for us while we were powerless and sinful. Who are we to judge others and be selective about whom we love?
“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)
Jesus said that all of the Ten Commandments can be summed up in two: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. One of these cannot exist without the other, and although they sound simple, these principles are not easy to follow. We live in a very individualistic society, and we must break out of the selfish or self-centered life.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
We are called to love everyone, but especially the household of faith.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
God made us in His image. He is love, and He calls us to love so that we become mirrors of His image. Loving other people is not accomplished through mere tolerance. It is the total acceptance of who they are, regardless of their race, religion and behavior. Love has no conditions. Communal living is so important. When a herd is together, the animals are safe. They see in all directions and alert one another of any incoming danger. But if one strays away, it becomes prey for the predator. Similarly, the members of the Church must work together and protect one another.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
The Early Church exemplified communal living. No wonder the Church grew in leaps and bounds in those days. Do we include others in our lifestyle, or are we individualistic? We are each but a part of the body.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)
We need to learn and express the five love languages:
Use words of affirmation, expressing love for others.
Spend quality time with people.
Give appropriate physical touch to express care.