By Drew Zuverink
"A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.."
Sometimes homicide detectives come across a dead body and they don't know who the deceased person is. Of course this is a big deal because without that information they aren't able to inform the victims family, interview suspects, or conduct the rest of their investigation. So in order to figure out who the victim is the detectives look for identifying marks such as birth marks or tattoos.
In the same way that a tattoo can be used to identify who a person is, circumcision used to be the distinguishing mark of God's people in the Old Testament. The sign of circumcision was God's idea when he established his covenant with Abraham, so it was a big deal. During the time of Jesus, if you wanted to know who the real men of God were, it was all about circumcision. But, as Jesus so often did, he switched things up.
A New Command
In the New Covenant it isn't circumcision that distinguishes a Christ follower from the rest of society, and it isn't how often we read our Bible, pray, or go to church either. The identifying mark of a Christian today is if we love one another in the same way that Jesus loved us. This was an entirely new commandment introduced into the world. Sure, loving others and treating them how you'd like to be treated was all over the place, but loving like Jesus did - that was brand new. It was new because Jesus didn't come to die for his friends, he died for his enemies. And Jesus didn't offer his forgiveness to the people who deserved it, he offered it to the people who opposed him. And Jesus didn't respond with love just to the people who treated him well, he served everyone. That kind of love is how people can identify Jesus' disciples.
When commenting on this passage in his book Not In It To Win It, Andy Stanley writes, "How we treat, talk about, respond to, and care for one another is the identifying mark of a genuine Jesus follower. Not what we believe." Too often we try to prove our allegiance to God by a list of beliefs, but Jesus is more interested in how we treat people. All people.
So What About You?
Examine yourself. Are you marked by things like extreme forgiveness and sacrificial love or is your forgiveness limited to minor offenses and your service reserved for the people who see the world the same way you do? Or what about your responses, what do they say about you? When someone insults you, criticizes you, or even attacks your beliefs, how do you treat them? Do you return blessings for curses or do you sin against them because they've sinned against you? What about your enemies? How do you treat the people you strongly disagree with? Do you mask your hatred under the guise insulting sarcasm or do you treat everyone with respect no matter what?
The world decides who to love based on whether or not someone deserves it, but Christ does not. And the world looks at someones actions before they decide how they will treat them, but Christ doesn't do that either. So the question for all of us to wrestle with is, "Am I following in the ways of the world or am I following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ?" To find your answer look to your actions, not your beliefs.