One thing I do with my children regularly is memorize hymns. This month, we are singing They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.
Singing this song daily, along with the recent sermons from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, has caused me to think about what it means that others will know we are Christians because we love each other.
The song is based on John 15:35, which says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When I researched the origin of this hymn, I found that it was written by a Catholic priest ministering on the south side of Chicago in 1966. That it is a new, American hymn written during a time when the culture was becoming as divided and contentious as it is today makes the song more challenging for us. As a whole, most people in our culture seem to have trouble engaging civilly with those who differ from us, but the Church is made of people of all classes, cultures, races, and ideologies. However, we often bring our struggles to have cordial relationships with people who are different from us into our gatherings.
So how are we doing as God’s church at loving one another? How are we interacting with Christians who chose to live differently than we do, or whose cultural practices we don’t like or understand, or with whom we have significant and important theological disagreements? Are our interactions with our Christian brothers and sisters even significant enough that these are relevant questions? I fear that our first problem might be that we don’t even engage with each other deeply enough to cultivate love. It is hard to love people you only engage with superficially.
I ask my kids whether we are doing a good job of loving each other. Are we being patient, kind, and unselfish in the ways we interact? Are we bearing with each other as we learn and grow, putting ourselves aside to seek the best for each other? How can we help each other do better? Because we are together in our home and the kids are homeschooled, most of the family is together most of the time. We have plenty of opportunity to practice loving each other.
Within the church are we in fellowship enough to develop loving relationships with each other? Are we allowing God’s Spirit to work in us and help us love each other? Can those who visit us see us loving each other as Jesus loved people?
For my part, I am having trouble making time to be present in the lives of other believers. Part of that just comes from having four busy children who need me to be there for them, but I am still reevaluating how I spend my time to be sure that I have interaction and contact enough that I can say that I am engaging in loving relationships with others.