I have always found that when God wants to get a message across, He finds avenues to have it repeated until it sinks in to the mind of His children. Remember how Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” With all the noise of the world today, sometimes it is hard to hear His voice, because He is never one to scream.
This last week, I heard His voice in a very small book that was tucked away on my shelf, entitled: The Mark of the Christian by Francis A. Schaeffer. For some of you, this will be a well-known title or author; others, perhaps not. This was one of the many books I mined from the bookshelves of my father, who was an avid and widely-read follower of Christ.
When my husband left this world to enjoy the presence of Jesus, our new pastor claimed a verse that encouraged the church to focus on maintaining unity and love as we moved forward. I have thought about that idea several times in the past year or so, and when I picked up Schaeffer’s book, I saw the reason.
Jesus speaks about the signs that will show the world that a person is His disciple. One is found in John 13:33-35: “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.”
As Schaeffer says, Jesus is giving the world a right to judge the Christian. They are not judging the truth of the Gospel, but they are judging whether we are following the One we say we believe based on our love for and unity with our fellow Christian believer. “If I fail in my love toward Christians, it does not prove I am not a Christian” (for no one is perfect in their love for others), but “if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgment that I am not a Christian.”
The second is found in John 17:21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
This is not an organizational unity, but a oneness that is demonstrated in the practical love we show to one another as fellow Christ-followers. Sometimes, that is in just asking for forgiveness when we have wronged the other. As fallible saints, we won’t be perfect in the expression of our love and unity, but Schaeffer says “it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe.” If not, then the world can assume that we are not Christians and that Christ was not sent by the Father.
The world is not looking at our doctrine, for as Schaeffer says, they don’t care about that. Doctrinal differences abound between true followers of Christ. What the world is looking for is that, despite our differences, we show true love for one another and are united because of the redeeming work of Christ in our lives. When they see this, they will “consider the truth of Christianity and Christ’s claim that the Father did send the Son.”
I found that we do not take this into consideration in a country where “Christians” abound and we have the freedom to live as we wish in our separate churches. However, having lived in countries where Christians are few and freedom limited, I have been privileged to experience the love and unity with brothers and sisters from a variety of Christian denominations, because we focused on the essential of who we are in Christ and the importance of expressing that to the “world” so closely watching.
Our world is changing, and the cause of Christ is suffering because the hearts of many have grown cold. Is the world around you able to see the mark of Christ in you? I do not want to be found to be the cause for a person to reject Christ and the Gospel because of my lack of love and ability to live in unity with my fellow believer. Do you?
Grace and Peace