May 19 ;

John 13:31-35 ;

If we didn’t know better, you’d think, by listening in to the chatter that goes on inside and outside the church, that being a Christian is a matter of correct doctrine, a person’s attitude toward the Bible, belonging to the right religious organization or having the properly credentialled ethical or political views. However, Jesus made it clear that the identifying characteristic of those who truly follow him is that they love one another. The law in Leviticus 19:17-18 stated that the members of the family of God are not to hold hatred in their hearts against any of their kindred. They are to love their neighbour as if it were themselves, but this was not to be a dishonest love which avoided the tough task of correcting wrong behaviour or warning about the possible consequences of wrong actions. Vengeance and the bearing of grudges are to have no place among them. Jesus took this instruction given to the people of Israel hundreds of years before he lived and applied it to his community of disciples.   If the general public aren’t able to recognize Christian discipleship today, it must be because they have not seen this love in action. His disciples have not lived up to their calling. And I guess that has been the case with his disciples all through the centuries. This love for one another among Christians is but a particular instance of that broader love of neighbour that Jesus both lived and commanded. In spite of our failures, it still remains true – the distinguishing mark of a true follower of Jesus is self-giving love. And, deep down, the wider community knows this. It sees through the plethora of activities that the church is engaged in to look for self-sacrificing love and genuine acceptance of people, both Christian and non-Christian. That is the heart of Christian witness.

  • What is the difference between Church membership and Christian discipleship?
  • In what ways do we express self-giving love toward other followers of Christ?
  • We can’t show what we do not possess. How does a person come to have the self-giving love toward others that Jesus was talking about?
  • What hinders us from living this way of self-giving love toward other followers of Christ and more widely to other people as well?