I have this horrible habit – I try diligently to mind my own business and seem to attract those who wish to discuss things loudly within my hearing. It’s not that I try to eavesdrop – I just seem to be surrounded by those having what should be a private conversation at a very public volume.
One such conversation occurred recently – a woman was griping to her male companion (husband? friend? co-worker? Not sure) about a woman who she has significant difficulty getting along with. In the speaker’s opinion, the woman in question has absolutely no redeeming qualities. At least that’s what it sounded like. She listed several flaws this woman has. In the end, it sounded like the woman speaking and the woman she was bad-mouthing just have different ways of approaching tasks to be completed.
Then my heart broke when the woman finished with, “I just cringe every time I see that woman walking toward me in church.” Wait. You were verbally shredding a fellow believer?! Pretty sure that’s not an okay thing to do.
John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”
It’s simple – disciples of Jesus are recognized by the love they have for one another. Not how ornate their church buildings are, not what style of music they use in worship, not what translation of the scripture their pastor uses . . . their love for the family of faith. There is no escape clause in that command – we are to love one another in the same way God loved us. Period.
My heart often breaks when I see the rage and animosity that has become a part of the internet culture. We all want others to accept/support the causes that are nearest and dearest to our own hearts but we can often be heartless and unloving when interacting with others of different views. But my encounter today tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. If followers of Jesus cannot love one another, how on earth can I expect those who don’t agree on “big” issues to treat each other lovingly?! I’m not going to lie – what I overheard was also very convicting. I’ve been guilty of the behavior I observed more often than I want to think about. I screw up this command far too many times.
Let’s face it – followers of Jesus are humans. We fail, fall down, sin, hurt others, get hurt, deal with disappointment or cause it . . . we all screw up. But none of that is an excuse to treat each other harshly. The command above is pretty clear. It is our love for our brothers and sisters that will distinguish us as follower of Jesus. It doesn’t mean we pretend not to have differences or that we act like we never disagree. In fact, I personally think it would have MORE impact if those outside of the faith could see us deal with differences of opinion/disagreements with gentleness, empathy, compassion, and love.
As I said earlier, it was a convicting experience. The challenge to myself sounds simple but is going to be a challenge – all those who claim to be followers of Christ are my family and I will seek to treat them with love first and foremost. I have no delusions – it won’t be easy! But it’s a behavior that needs to become so deeply ingrained in me that doing anything else would be impossible.