‘They Will Know We Are Christians By Our…’

Just what sort of Christian witness do we have?

I am likely the last person on earth who should be writing about the sorts of things that follow, since I hardly see myself as a paragon of Christian virtue, be it love, joy, peace or what have you. So let me once again say that when I write a piece like this, it includes me as part of the intended audience.

I begin with my title, which most Christians would recognise, even in its abbreviated form. It is well known. At least when I was a younger Christian – ages ago – we used to sing it all the time. The full title of course is ‘They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,’ and the lyrics go like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

 

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

Often we would sing this while sitting on the floor in a circle. And being told to hold hands, look at each other, and smile a lot, was often part of the way it went. Of course if you were like me – a rather cerebral, introverted kinda guy – it was at times like this that one was tempted to leave the faith. Just kiddin’. But some of you can relate!

The song itself does of course express some key biblical truths, primarily as found in the Gospel of John. Two important things Jesus said there are reflected in this song:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

A major way that the world will know that the Father sent the Son, and that we are part of the divine family, is how we love one another, and by our unity. The question is, just what does the world see when it looks upon us believers? Sadly far too often it sees Christians at war with each other, hating on each other, and being woefully – and happily – divided.

No one is calling for a stifling uniformity here, and there is real diversity to be celebrated in the Body of Christ. But that often tends to outshine genuine love and unity amongst believers. Jesus thought this to be a very serious matter indeed, stating that if those in the world are not receptive to the gospel, it is in good part because of the way we are living out the gospel – or not living it out.

Politics and religion

As is well known, two things that are not to be discussed in polite society are found in my subtitle. And for good reason: so many verbal wars arise because of these topics – sometimes even leading to actual wars. People can get so hot and bothered over these issues – Christians just as much as non-Christians. And we sure see this happening on the social media.

It is often said that we should not hang our dirty laundry out in public for the whole world to see. But the social media is the perfect place for this to happen, and it does happen – all the time. You sometimes wonder what non-Christians are thinking when they see believers going at each other’s throats, hurling abuse and insults, and angrily denouncing one another.

The name-calling alone is relentless. One Christian will denounce another Christian as an apostate or a heretic or a cultist or as someone who is not even a real Christian. Now don’t get me wrong: all these groupings do exist. But so often someone is called these things simply because they dare to differ in how they think about various political or theological matters.

As I have said kazillions of times now, truth IS important and sound doctrine DOES matter. To bring the worlds of politics and religion together, if some guy comes along and tells you that Donald Trump or Joe Biden is actually the long-awaited Messiah, that he is God’s chosen one to save the world and bring in God’s Kingdom, well, then yes, he is well off in left field, and obviously moving into cultic or heretical territory.

But that is quite different from having believers take differing views on say, how Trump has done politically, if he should run again, how he compares with others, and so on. Indeed, a whole new battlefront has erupted, just hours after the US mid-term elections. Many conservatives and Christians have already started WWIII as to their preferred GOP POTUS candidate for 2024.

I have already seen plenty of heated battles on this. Some are hating on DeSantis, while loving Trump. Some are loving DeSantis, while hating on Trump. Some are hating on both. Some are loving both. No wonder so many just stay out of the political debates altogether. It gets pretty intense out there, and often heat rather than light is generated!

And many other believers and non-believers just look on in amazement as so much vitriol, abuse, hatred and nastiness goes on display – especially when Christians are engaging in it. Instead of Christians having a calm and civilised discussion, so many just want to slit someone else’s throat for daring to differ from them. Not a good look, friends.

As to this particular debate between the two Republicans, I have already said previously where I more or less stand. And one thing I certainly did emphasise: We need to keep both guys in our prayers. Yet too many Christians would much rather fight, argue and denounce one another over these matters instead of getting on their knees for some much-needed prayer.

If they would pray even a fraction as long as they spend time shouting and belittling one another, we would all be in a much better place. And once again, it should be clear that I think politics matters, that some parties are better than others, and some politicians are to be preferred to others.

So there certainly is a place to discuss these things. But too often folks are unable to simply chat about things as rational and gracious believers. Instead, they quickly degenerate into name-calling, hurling abuse, slinging mud and convincing the whole world to know we are Christians by our hate.

And sadly, I find that some of the folk most guilty of this will talk all the time about grace. Their social media pages are filled with posts about grace, and how they are really into grace. But so often they refuse to show it to others, especially fellow believers who might have somewhat different views on things. When that happens – and I come across it far too often – I have to wonder if they know anything at all about God and his grace.

That is when the things that Jesus talked about in John 13 and 17 especially come to mind. Just where is the grace and love and unity? It seems these are just words for some believers. They have the terms on their lips constantly while chewing others out and basically treating people like crap.

Sure, as I have written so often, unity should not come at the expense of truth. And love must be backed up by truth, just as truth must be backed up by love. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/07/12/love-and-truth-again/

But as mentioned, the social media is one very obvious place where our heated and often antagonistic battles are being fought, and the whole world is watching – or at least all our social media friends are. What kind of witness are we having there? Is it Christ-honouring? Does it draw people to the Saviour? Or push them away?

Yes, I get it wrong quite often here. I can be too argumentative at times. Some other times I may need to be more argumentative! Sometimes I am too impatient with folks and I will give them the boot. Some other folks I perhaps have been too patient with.

So I am still learning. I have not yet arrived. But I do know the older I get that I sure do lack love, grace, humility, and the like. I have such a long ways to go as a Christ-follower. At the very least, you can keep me in your prayers. I need them. It would be a horrible thing to learn one day that because of my subpar Christian witness, I may have contributed to someone turning away from Christ.

That is serious stuff indeed – something that we all might want to carefully contemplate.

[1558 words]

3 Replies to “‘They Will Know We Are Christians By Our…’”

  1. As God gave us each a brain & free will we each should exercise both in politics and in bring both freedom and in the true expression of love towards one another. Not the lust, as in carnal love, or love of possessions in moderation all types of love but lust are OK for everyone, even those who follow Jesus Christ the love Jesus Christ expressed, Agape love. This love is higher then any worldly expression of love when doing what God desires of each follower of His Son Jesus. It is a love for everyone, who Jesus expressed in the parable of The Good Samaritan. Therefore there should be no bias towards others not in any part of our lives and where greed, power etc strive to show bias towards our fellow human beings we as believers, born-again though Jesus Christ are called to stand up against this evil in what ever form it takes.

  2. Let them see your love. My works as worship to God is how I show my love. When people ask me why I am the way I am, that lets me then speak about the joy of being a disciple of Christ. I always liked doing things simply, without fuss, in a way that people will notice and ask.

    Actions speak louder than words ever can.

  3. Sometimes those song sessions get cringy if you ask me. Too much emotion put in play. Too sappy. Same with many of these pre-K and elementary age Sunday school songs that teach nothing or barely anything but rhyme a lot.

    One of two thing needs to happen with the church and social media: A) most get OFF and only some, specially trained, stay on and use the platform (I use that loosely since they act as a publisher not a platform) to spread the gospel and speak in appropriate ways to others to show love and grace; B) all get off temporarily til they are trained in civility and how to conduct themselves properly online so as to exude love, grace and gentleness.

    While each generation had youth wouldn’t heed the wisdom of their elders the boomers made an art of this and each generation since has followed their playbook. So is it any wonder with disrespect towards parents/elders huge in the last 4 generations that society is so UNcivilized??

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