A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another
As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another.
John 13: 34-35
We are conscious of and dependent upon the word of God as He uses it in the lives of people to bring them to Him. Romans 10:17 declares “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We know the importance of exposing others to this word, as we use it in Bible studies, and in our testimonies describing the Lord’s work in our lives. We are also aware of how the Lord uses not only the word, but our lives as well. Matthew 5:16 states “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” I Peter 2:12 also relates “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Both our individual lives, as well as the word of God are key elements by which our Lord brings mankind to Himself. There is a third process, however, of which I was ignorant for many years. It is a powerful way by which He draws people into the Kingdom: the work of the Body of Christ, manifesting its love for one another.
Years ago, I met with my medical residents in training for daily rounds at the hospital. I would often meet with them for lunch, as well as engage in various activities such as golf, tennis, and fishing. If they were responsive to spiritual topics, we would look at the scriptures together as well, either individually or in a small group. One particular young man was willing to meet for lunch, but saw no relevance of the scriptures to his life. He was willing, however, to attend a Leighton Ford crusade with me. Following the meeting, I asked him for his comments. I was expecting him to ask about what he had heard from the speaker, and perhaps need some clarification about the message. Instead his answer was, “The people.” I said, “What do you mean, the people?” His reply was, “The way they treated one another. They greeted each other. They cared for them. They loved them.” Amazing! He had picked up from observation that many of the people who attended knew one another, and had expressed a love and concern which he had never seen before.
About the same time the above incident occurred, my wife and I had traveled to Glen Eyrie with another couple to attend the summer conference. He had trusted Christ a few years earlier and I had been meeting with him weekly at his home. His wife manifested no interest in her husband’s faith, yet was willing to go with us for a week at Colorado Springs. More than one hundred people were in attendance that week, and she had opportunity to see them in small group settings, as well as in larger groups throughout the week. The last night of the conference, as testimonies were being given she stood and related the following story.
“I grew up in London during World War II. I saw daily destruction of lives as a young girl and I decided that there was no God. This last week has changed my thinking. I have seen the way you relate to one another. Your love for each other has convinced me of the reality of the Lord and His truth.”
During that week the truth of John 13:35 became evident in her life. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” She subsequently trusted Christ and became one of His followers.
On our return from Glen Eyrie that year, we decided to try something new with our social relationships. We began to schedule activities that would mix our non-Christian friends with our Christian friends. Our initial venture consisted of an afternoon of tennis matches followed with a dinner together. We were praying and trusting the Lord to use the truth of John 13:34-35 in the lives of the non-Christians.
The second lesson I learned from the conference was the importance of love in the Christian community. Ray Stedman once made the following comment.
To dwell above with saints we love,
Oh, that would be glory!
To dwell below with saints we know,
well, that’s another story.
There are many reasons for the lack of love among Christians. One of the foremost reasons for this is the lack of agreement in the non-essentials of our faith. The Lord has never called us to unity of mind, but instead to unity of Spirit. Ephesians 4:3 states the following, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” If we make the knowledge we have the basis for our fellowship, then churches, ministries, and personal relationships will end up in division. I Corinthians 8:1 reminds us that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” In discussion of this topic with Mike Treneer, (President of the Navigators) about six years ago, he made the following statement, “I have learned to float my boat in the deep waters of the Christian faith.” Several weeks ago, Beverly and I were listening again to a message given by Dr. Ken Bailey on I Corinthians 13. His remarks comparing faith, hope, and love were quite intriguing. He stated that faith was secondary to love, which was the greatest and most important of the three gifts (faith, hope, and love). If that is so, why are we not known as lovers (focusing on love), rather than as believers (focusing on faith)? Why are our lives not singled out as those in the first century when it was remarked “Behold, how they love one another?” Is knowledge the basis of our fellowship, or is it love? Have we learned to float our boat in the deep waters of the Christian faith? Are we known by others simply as believers, or as lovers?
As we seek to evangelize, establish, and equip others for their work in the Kingdom, we cannot lose sight of the importance of love in our relationships with others. Yes, the Lord uses our lives. Yes, He will use His word. But if we make love our goal, the following promise holds true. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”