“There should be no more distinctive mark of the Christian than love.”
Billy Graham from The Holy Spirit
This is an unqualified call to show this fruit of love [behavior of love] every day of our lives but I have to ask the hard question: how many of us fall short?
You can find countless Scriptures imploring us to show love for one another. Romans 13: 8 says “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” First Peter 4:8 encourages “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” First Corinthians 13:1-3 declares “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
“Love is an act of the will and that is why our wills must first be yielded to Christ before we will begin to bear the fruit of love” [Graham, 249]. Maybe that is why so many people do not exhibit love today. They have not really given their lives to Jesus. They say they have; in fact, they will declare that they have a personal relationship with God, but do they? It should show.
I don’t usually use this blog to “preach.” I would rather pick important parts of a book and comment on them rather than share my own personal thoughts, but one of the first fruits that should be obvious to others when you give your life to Christ is that you love others. It just seems that today, too many Christians just find themselves in situations where they are incapable of showing it.
American culture today makes it tough. We live in a country that is obsessed with expression and too often the expression that is expressed is far from what I would call love. So many people seem to be caught up in what has come to be called “social media”. I find the term ironic. I know I am not “hip” when I write this but social means conversation, one to one or one to small group. Beyond small group it becomes public speaking [one to large group]. My point is social media is not social; interaction occurs directly between people. Ideas get exchanged, we attend to words and body language and there can be mutual respect for other people.
Social media’s flaw is that it happens on a phone or computer as images are shared and words are added on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. There is a barrier between the one with the ideas and the recipient of those ideas [that barrier is a phone or a computer]. There is safety when you express yourself without seeing any effect. People seem to get bold when they have a firewall between themselves and their audience; they say hateful things, judgmental things, discouraging things. You might expect that people who don’t believe in God would have no qualms about doing this…
But oftentimes, many of the negative things I see expressed come from Christians.
Lifestyle comments are so common today. If anyone’s existence gets publicized on social media, or even television or the newspaper, people feel emboldened to weigh in on their circumstances. I see comments all the time about people who have some unique situation in their life: a parent who may have accidently left a child unattended, a man who is struggling to help his sick wife, a successful television personality who is struggling with an addiction. We could go on and on. Examples abound. Many people feel they should comment on another person’s life as though they know the person involved. People are complex and none of us need to comment, much less castigate others. We don’t know others’ circumstances. To use the cliché, we have not “walked a mile in their shoes” but we comment anyhow.
Some of those very uncharitable comments come from Christians.
The last area for me to focus on is in the arena of politics today. Politics has become a blood sport and as we consider what side we want to identify with, it is open season for the use of hateful talk about others who don’t have our views. For example one party in America is supposed to hate the other, and after lining up with one party or the other, it is common to believe that the chosen party’s view on governance is right for our diverse society. To be honest, when one studies policy from both parties, there are good and bad ideas in both. To have effective government, it would be best to take the good ideas from competing parties and use all of them. That is not what we do today. We would rather go to a public forum, spew hateful comments at those who don’t believe like us and march back to our corner.
Some of the most hateful comments I read come from Christians.
Let’s talk about irony. I am a perfect example of irony. It is ironic that I would complain about social media and what do I do with this blog? I put it on a platform that makes it available to the public [social media]. I put links to it on Facebook [social media]. My own ironic behavior is not lost on me.
But here is another irony that I want to reveal. Billy Graham states “No matter how else we may bear our testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ, the absence of love nullifies it all”. He goes further by writing “If love does not characterize our lives, they are empty.” If Christians love Jesus Christ, we should be very concerned about what we put on social media, know that the device we are using to express ourselves is not an excuse for hateful comments. I wonder what Jesus would think about us being so negative about other people we don’t even know. I wonder what He would think of our disdain of others’ lifestyles when we don’t even know them. Lastly, the world is a tempting thing and too many Christians are caught up in politics and don’t realize that they are supposed to love the people in the “other” party, that the “other” people are humans who are deserving of our love, even if they don’t think like us. Here is a real shocker: many of the people who are hated are Christians who just happen to have a different view of life.
I know this post may be one that angers readers but I have struggled with the “first fruit” of the fruits of the spirit: love. I stand back from time to time and watch how we behave as a society and I am appalled. I believe Graham when he says “There should be no more distinctive mark of the Christian than love.”
I also believe this because it calls us to examine our fruit as Christian brothers and sisters: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13; 35].
Stand back from time to time and consider your words.
What type of fruit are you showing?