Love one another.

John 13.34-35 KJV
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Lest we miss the point, Jesus says “Love one another” thrice. It’s not unimportant to him. It is unimportant to Christians however. We’ve really pooched this one. On a global level.

We don’t love our fellow Christians in our churches. They’re family, and sometimes we acknowledge they’re family… but they’re kinda like the family we barely tolerate for family reunions. We don’t interact with them outside our church buildings. We don’t know what’s going on with their personal lives. We don’t care, either. We’re too busy.

We don’t love our fellow Christians in the other churches. In many cases we convinced ourselves half of them aren’t real Christians anyway. Their denominations teach weird, inappropriate things. They’re too legalistic to really love Jesus, or they’re too loosey-goosy with God’s righteous standards to really love Jesus. They’re not Spirit-filled enough… or they think they’re more Spirit-filled than we are, but really they’ve just confused their weird fleshly impulses with the Spirit.

We don’t love our fellow Christians in far-off lands. If the nearby Christians aren’t Christian enough for us, foreign Christians definitely aren’t. Their customs are too bizarre. Their people are dirt poor, and we wealthy Christians are so unconsciously used to social Darwinist and prosperity gospel thinking, we suspect they can’t have a proper relationship with God if he’s abandoned them to their poverty like that. We assume their so-called Christianity is really their country’s version of Christianism: It’s a cultural and ethnic thing which everybody does by rote. It’s not a living relationship, but dead religion. Shame they’re getting persecuted though… which can’t possibly be because they really do know Jesus, and would die for him.

We barely love our neighbors anyway. And besides, we’re busy! We have jobs. We have kids to raise, and drive to their afterschool activities. We have dates to keep, buddies to stay connected with, movies to watch, teams to support, video games to play… We “have lives.” Jesus understands; he knows all, and knows how busy we are. We haven’t time. We’ll do it once we finally have time, like when we retire, or after we’re resurrected.

What happens when we do?

When Christians cut the crap and love one another—really love one another—it astounds people.

It makes the newspaper. Churches working together? Churches, of different denominations, of different traditions, contributing towards each other’s ministries? Working together to do good deeds in their community? Paying each other’s bills?

Christians, of different economic and social and political and racial backgrounds, apologizing for their misdeeds, and their ancestors’ misdeeds? Reconciling? Helping one another? Restoring one another? Building one another up, in more ways than encouragement alone? When do people ever do that?

We don’t. Which is why it makes news. ’Cause wow, here are some Christians who actually act like Christ.

Pagans do know what it looks like when people truly love one another. And they know from experience people don’t just do that sort of thing. What individual would dare to step in, and do for a needy person what charities and government welfare programs usually do for them?

I know loads of Christians who argue government has no business doing such things, and that it’s not their job; it’s for charities alone. I profoundly disagree. In part because such Christians don’t adequately fund their favorite charities… if they even give at all. But generosity, and their lack of it, is another issue. I’ll simply say I know from experience: I was on the board of a charity which tried to keep people from being forced into homelessness. Getting help from fellow Christians was like pulling teeth: “Some of those people don’t deserve help.” Or “They’re con artists; they’re just trying to live off your charity; they need to get a better job instead of shaking you down.” These stingy folks were so fearful of parting with their money, they ignore the fact Jesus taught us to let ourselves be taken advantage of. Mt 5.38-42 Love keeps no record of wrongs. 1Co 13.5

The level of love we tend to see among Christians is the non-committal, socially affectionate, hug-’em-in-church but do-squat-for-them-elsewhere behavior which passes for love among people who don’t have the real thing. The real thing stuns them. It’s socially awkward. It shatters psychological and emotional barriers.

The real thing, the legitimate fruit of the Spirit, makes people see God. Before they experienced this love, they could easily deny God exists. A world with no love in it is obviously a world without a God. But when they encounter love? Actual love? Jesus’s love, which led him to sacrifice himself for us?

As I said, Jesus said “Love each other” thrice. He meant it. We’re to love everyone, but start with one another, and love as far as Jesus does. When we see this fruit in Christians, it proves we’re Christians.

When we don’t see it, it proves we’re not.