Christians Need to Love Each Other More

Note: This is a re-post from last fall, but it seems apropos to post it again in the aftermath of my article on unity within the body of Christ, which since last week has spawned anything but unity in the blogosphere. I have more follow-up thoughts that I will share in a few days, but for now, here is something to think about:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is one of the last things Jesus said (John 13:34-35) to his disciples on the night before he was crucified. He told them to love one another in the same way that he had loved them.

This is a verse that gets a lot of play in many churches today. The necessity of love is increasingly heard from pulpits, Christian books, radio shows and so on. Churches and Christians everywhere are scrambling to love the world and serve it selflessly. And that is a wonderful thing. I’m glad to see love making a comeback.

But what about Christians loving one another? Are we as good at this as we are at loving those outside the church? In the Christian world of feuding factions and denominations, theological catfights, and near constant bickering, I sometimes wonder.

Read the words of Jesus again.  He doesn’t say people will know we are Christians because we have so much love for the world. He says people will know we are Christians because we have love for one another.

Perhaps Jesus did mean something more human and universal when he said “one another.” But it almost makes more sense if he was talking specifically about the church loving its own members—his disciples loving each other. Why? Because an unconditional love between people of such diverse backgrounds (Jew, Gentile, poor, rich, black, white) bound only by a common allegiance to Christ IS the most noticeable kind of love. There aren’t many circumstances in this life where people of every sort of class, race, circumstance and struggle are unified and bound by unconditional, unearthly love. But this is what Christianity is supposed to be. And when it IS this way, it is such a powerful witness.

Christianity is about becoming a community of disparate believers who nevertheless fuse together under the auspices of that most binding and barrier-breaking of all sealants: Christ’s all surpassing love. It is only natural that this will look countercultural to a world that more often than not divides itself along whatever lines (ethnic, class, gender, nationality) it can come up with. The Christian church distinguishes itself (ideally) by putting aside these arbitrary dividing lines. As D.A. Carson famously described in Love in Hard Places, we are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake:

The church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance.

Christians loving each other may prove to be the most difficult love of all (because heaven knows we are all so broken and annoying and stubborn), but in the end I think it proves to be the best witness.

I’m sort of tired of Christians fighting with each other so much, tearing each other down, etc. If from the outside, Christian communities look as petty and unkind as anyone else in the world (or worse), why should anyone be interested in Christianity? But if Christians love each other with the sort of unconditional, self-effacing altruism that Christ modeled for us, we will live up to our namesake and people will know we are Christians just by looking.

So let’s put aside our differences, look to Christ, and love each other more.

5 responses to “Christians Need to Love Each Other More

  1. I don’t normally post comments (and prefer not to read them for reasons related to your post). This article and the previous one are honestly a breath of fresh air to me. It makes me sad that I can already hear the contrary responses to your post, but I believe you are spot-on. Keep up the good work.

  2. While I agree wholeheartedly with this post, I do think it’s important to remember that love and disagreement are not mutually exclusive, and that there’s a difference between unity of spirit and unity of ideology.

    • Yes I definitely agree with you here. Part of the problem is that the lines between those things are so often blurred and people take doctrinal disagreements personally or as a hindrance to “unity of spirit.”

  3. yes, brett, i do whole heatedly agree that we as the Body of Christ need to learn to love each other well… yet your recent post, you negate yourself by your unwillingness to engage opinions that may be contrary to your own. One of the things that Christ has taught me through His teachings, is to think critically & question the world, my own faith, trying to become more in tune with the Father’s heart for the church, our neighbors & this world that we live in.

  4. Brett,

    Thanks for the post. I’m sure both sides are equally capable of engaging in strenuous argumentation, and even harsh polemic (NT Wright, of course, puts anyone else to shame with his barbed comments). The difference — in my opinion, though — is whether we engage in that kind of strenuous dialogue from within or without the communion of other Christians. Wright and Reformed ecumenists would rather see that discussion take place at the same institutional table, so to speak. And unless I’m mistaken, the T4G conference seemed to say that the purity of individual believers was at stake if they remain in the same communion as the compromisers (like Wright, I assume?).

    For me, that makes all the difference in the world. I have a hard time imagining even a hypothetical ecclesial unity if we can’t debate each other while in some formal communion with each other — at least, as much as possible. It seems much more difficult to persuade someone while standing outside any shared, empathetic space.

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