By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. - John 13:35 NASB
Throughout history people have identified themselves as followers of Jesus Christ by various external marks, such as special clothes or even distinctive haircuts. In more recent times some have worn lapel pins, crosses or other jewelry, donned clothing with a Christian theme, affixed Christian bumper stickers to their cars, or sipped their coffee out of mugs emblazoned with a Christian logo.
These external displays of loyalty to Christ are not necessarily wrong, and at times can be helpful in drawing attention to one’s Christian testimony. But it is not superficial, outward symbols that ultimately mark a true follower of Jesus Christ; it is the internal attitudes of the heart (MacArthur, 2008. p. 83-84).
The Bible repeatedly warns of those who claim to be Christ’s disciples, but are not. So in fulfilling the Great Commission; as we go and make disciples in all the world, how will they know that we are His?
How will they know that we are Christians?
How will they know that we are Christ’s disciples?
How will they know that we have been saved?
Will they know by what we wear?
Will they know by what our job is?
Will they know by what kind of car we drive?
Will they know by how much money we have?
Will they know by what church we attend?
Will they know by what denomination we are a part of?
The answer to all of these while they are all important parts of life, is NO!
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 NASB)
Sadly, this is where we as Christians too often fail.
Instead of being known for our genuine love for each other, we are known for our critical attitudes. We are known for not seeking forgiveness when we are in the wrong, and for not granting forgiveness when someone has come seeking ours.
So if all men will know that we are Christ's disciples by our love for one another, then it stands to reason that we should make love for one another the highest priority; second only to our love for God Himself! For we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, and all of our mind, and all of our soul.
What does this love look like?
1. This love will be without hypocrisy. (Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy.)
The Greek word translated love in Romans 12:9 is the same word translated love in John 13:35. It is agape, meaning to put others' needs above your own. It is a sincere love, without hypocrisy or selfish motives. It is a love that is not phony or "put on." It is free from hidden agendas.
The greatest virtue of the Christian life is love. The world can sense hypocrisy faster than anything and so we can't fake loving each other. We either love each other sincerely or we do not.
2. This love will abhor (hate) what is evil. (Romans 12:9 Abhor what is evil.) Hatred of evil is the other side of love, which, by its very nature, cannot approve of any unrighteousness. Evil is the enemy of God and the enemy of love (MacArthur, 1994. p. 185.)
3. This love will cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 Cling to what is good.) The Greek word translated cling means "to glue, unite," so it is saying that we are to be glued to or unite to that which is good. It is to be a defining characteristic of who we are as Christian people; for without it we cannot properly love one another as we should.
4. This love will be a devoted love. (Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.) The Greek word translated devoted in verse 10 is a word that means to have tender love or that special affection that is shared between members of a family or in specific, God's family. The word translated into "brotherly love" of course is the word Philadelphia where the city in Pennsylvania gets its name. This word, Philadelphia is a word that means "love of brothers, love of Christian brethren" (MacArthur, p. 188.)
5. This love will give preference to one another. (Romans 12:10 Give preference to one another in honor.) "If we are truly 'devoted to one another in brotherly love' then it almost goes without saying that we will give preference to one another in honor" (MacArthur, p. 189.)
To honor someone is to do it in a sincere way. This is not something that should be done in order to gain approval or an advantage with the person being honored. The greek word translated "give preference" has the idea of "going before" or acting as a leader in the situation or task.
So, in this case it should be noted that Christians should in a way be attempting to out do each other when it comes to giving one another honor, or showing each other preference over ourselves.
6. This love will not lag behind in diligence, but will be fervent in spirit. (Romans 12:11 Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;) Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right.
The word translated diligence in verse 11 is a word meaning that whatever is being done should be done with one's best and full effort. This means that the effort should reflect something that has been given the top priority!
I recently attended a funeral for brother Alfred Hobbs. At this funeral it was stated that as a building contractor, Alfred's highest concern was quality and doing the job right. What this would look like is if it came to Alfred's attention that something was not up to par, then he would do whatever was necessary to make it right even if it meant personal loss on his end. He has been quoted as saying, "Take it down, and do it right." This is a reflection of someone who put diligence into their work. We as Christians should be putting the same diligence into our love for one another.
7. This love will rejoice in hope and be devoted to prayer. (Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.) Paul has written in his other letters that without the hope in Christ we would be the most pitiful people in all of the world. With this in mind we should rejoice together as Christians in this hope that we have in Christ.
The Christian who truly loves his brethren will pray for those brothers and sister in Christ. When was the last time you spent just 30 minutes total in a week's time in prayer for your fellow Christians?
8. This love will contribute to the needs of the saints. (Romans 12:13 Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.) The Greek word translated "contributing" here in verse 13 is a word that means to share in, or participate in each other's needs. It means to have a culture of mutual sharing in each others' needs.
"In the eyes of society, we rightfully own certain things, but before the Lord we own nothing. We are simply stewards of what He has blessed us with. And one of our most important responsibilities as His stewards is using our personal resources to contribute to the needs of the saints, our brothers and sister in Christ" (MacArthur, p. 193.)
Have you been holding anything back from a fellow Christian in need? Do you cling so hard to the things you are a steward over that you are unwilling to sacrificially give to your brethren?
This is why I stress and preach much about doing quality and honor to those who minister to us. When someone takes time to come sing or preach then we need to help mutually share in their needs. This also extends to those among us who are in need even if they don't minister to us in any public or official capacity.
9. This love will bless those who persecute us. (Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.) The Greek word translated "bless" is a word meaning to speak well of or praise. "To truly bless those who persecute us is to treat them as if they were our friends" (MacArthur, p. 196.)
Have you ever had a fellow Christian who did you wrong?
What is the temptation?
To write them off?
To hold back forgiveness?
To talk about or curse them behind their back?
Those who withhold forgiveness ultimately only invite bitterness into their lives.
10. This love will rejoice or weep depending on what is needed. (Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.) I will admit it would seem that we are getting an easy task here in verse 15. Who wouldn't want to rejoice with someone who is happy? Or who wouldn't want to hurt, and cry with someone who is hurting?
Well, consider for a moment, what if the person rejoicing is doing so because they got something that you had decided you wanted or deserved? What if they got a promotion you wanted? What if they get a raise or money some other way that you needed? True love for fellow Christians will rejoice with them regardless of the circumstances, even if our flesh tempts us to resent them in the moment.
11. This love will not be partial towards anyone. (Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.) We are not to be partial when it comes to our love for fellow Christians. We do not and should not pick and choose who we show our love to based on who they are or what they can do for us.
We are to pursue a humble attitude towards all Christians and treat them as having more value then ourselves, and putting them in a place of honor above ourselves. The only determining factor by which we make a decision to shower our love on someone is are they part of the family of God?
True, as Christ's disciples we should as much as we can be at peace with and show love and concern for all people. However, the context in view here is that as Christians we are to have a special, Christ commanded kind of love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, Jesus has said that this is how the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).
How will they know?
How will the world know that we are His?
How will they know that we are different from the world?
How will they know that we are saved?
They will know we are His disciples be being obedient to Christ's command to love one another and this love is void of self, it puts each other over ourselves and it humbles ourselves while lifting others up.
Do you love your fellow Christians? Do you love God's family? Does your life agree with your profession of love for your brothers and sisters in Christ?
Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of true love and if we are going to be like our Savior we MUST love one another because that is how all men will know that we are truly His disciples.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 12-21. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 2008.
Mac Arthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 1994.