“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
I have an eight year old son who is my pride and joy. He has the energy of a border collie and a heart of gold. As I get to watch him grow up, I have found my proudest moments are rarely born out of his “first time listening,” or his ability to finally get his clothes in the hamper – which is noteworthy, because these are the things I correct him for often.
No; the pride I have in my son comes when I see him love his sister well, or hear of him comforting a friend on the playground, or performing some spontaneous act of kindness from the love of God in his heart. I see those things as evidence of grace, and evidence of growth; in other words, as evidence of maturity.
I was reminded on Sunday that spiritual maturity is not indicated by breadth of knowledge but by depth of love. Just like with my son, I celebrate his “maturing” when I see his life marked increasingly by love, and I think the same can apply to us. In our lives, and in the lives of our friends or enemies, or brothers and sisters, spiritual maturity is both fueled by and evidenced by love.
Sometimes I fail to remember this, and I’ll speak without love, or operate in my giftings without love – what a danger in ministry! – or I’ll endeavor to accomplish by effort what can only be accomplished by mercy. Whether I’m looking in the mirror, or looking for patience with another’s offense, if it’s not rooted in love, it’s all for nothing.
Love is patient. For me, this means I can’t expect overnight results of myself, or of my child, or of my spouse, or of my enemy. Love is patient, like a Father teaching His child to walk; it’s thousands of stumbles toward mastery.
Love is kind. Kindness is the opposite of “I love you, but…”. In my years of ministry mentorship, I have seen (more than I have practiced, unfortunately) the hardest of truths delivered with incredible tenderness by those I look up to. It is a trait I pray for and one we can all grow in. In a world where love has grown cold, kindness can be the fire that keeps us warm.
Love does not envy or boast. Literally, we could eradicate social media on this command alone. I (somewhat) kid, but how could we love one another better this way? Perhaps we could tone down any sort of humble-brag that would cause our brothers or sisters to envy. Perhaps we could seek to build up others for their benefit and edification, rather than using our platform to boast.
Love is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Lord, help us.
It’s all too tall an order for any of us; and yet, the King and Creator of the entire universe has said that this will be how we are known – this will be how we will be distinguished as carriers of His Name – by how we love each other.
Not by seamlessly splitting every theological hair on social media forums until you are unanimously declared the winner.
Not by protesting in public with very large handmade signs and barely concealed rage.
Not by attending 3 worship services per week with photo evidence of hands raised, closed eyes, and at least one coffee on a verified Instagram profile. No. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples: if you love one another.
Friends, we love because He first loved us. Let us aim to be rooted in the love of the Father, and to grow up into His likeness by loving one another well.