If today’s Church received a report card from Jesus, I wonder what the grade would be for this command: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Is today’s Church known and recognized by its love for one another?
In the Church: Love One Another
While today’s referenced scriptures have to do with loving others, they are specifically related to how those in the Church love one another in the Church. For a more general teaching of ‘loving others’ as commanded by Jesus, go to Jesus Said Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. That post covers how Jesus said loving others is the second greatest command, and 6 of the 10 Commandments (#5-#10) relate to our relationships with other people.
In the Church: Take Care of One Another
It is clear that the referenced scriptures are referring to those in the Church. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus said He will separate the saved from the unsaved when He returns to earth. Jesus said that the saved will be those who took care of the needs of “the least of these brothers of mine” (verse 40). Jesus clearly defined his ”brothers” in Mark 3:35: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Similarly, Jesus said his ”friends” do what He commands (John 15:14). Not just anyone is called ‘brother’ and ‘friend’ by Jesus; only those who do the Father’s will, thereby following what Jesus commanded. Jesus said taking care of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a sign of a true disciple.
While Matthew 25:31-46 deals primarily with taking care of each other’s physical needs, there are spiritual connotations as well. Read this scripture and hear the call to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. As an example of a spiritual need, when was the last time I offered a sister in Christ the Word when she needed advice or comfort?
Another example is the Apostle Peter. In John 21:15-17, Peter is restored after he denied Jesus in John 18. Jesus told Peter three times to take care of His flock (the Church), using the phrases, “Feed my lambs”, “Take care of my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”. (See John 10:11-18, where Jesus defined Himself as the Good Shepherd, and us, His followers, as His sheep.) Peter went on to become one of the greatest preachers of the Gospel, feeding the spiritual needs of God’s people.
In the Church: Love as Jesus Loved
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34b)
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Who can read these statements by Jesus and not cringe at their weak efforts and lack of success in following these simple words? While the words are simple, actually living them is NOT. In our own strength and power, we fail in more ways than we can count. We fail by what we do (for example, harboring resentment against a brother or sister in the Church–Jesus would never have done that!). We fail by what we don’t do, as noted in James 4:17 (for example, ignoring the Holy Spirit’s prompting to take time and listen to a brother or sister who needs encouragement—Jesus always made time for people!).
It is only by letting the Christ in us (Colossians 1:27) live and love through us that we can obey Jesus’ command to love one another in the Church as He loves us. Unless we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), yielded to God, we cannot love one another as Jesus commanded.
So, back to the original question: How would Jesus grade the Church today on this command? I cannot speak about the Church throughout the world, but from what I have seen here in the United States, Jesus would give the Church a “C”. There is much pettiness, lack of unity, lack of peace, and lack of respect for the differences amongst people. There is too much ‘religious’ observance and not enough loving as Jesus loved: patient with one another’s faults, forgiving one another, lifting each other up in prayer, holding one’s tongue rather than always having to express one’s opinion…….in short, humility! Nice smiles and hugs do not cover the pride and arrogance that makes people in church maneuver for leadership positions and criticize those who hold them. There is often more effort to gain attention and recognition, to share problems and complain, rather than striving for holiness, peace, and unity in the Church. However, this loving unity is exactly what Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-21!
The Church is God’s people, wherever they are, in whatever church building they are in (or not in). If there is one thing I wish non-believers would understand it is that they should not expect perfection in the Church. They will never find it. What they will find are at least some people who have given themselves completely to Jesus, and are being transformed with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God knows His own: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). He will not be fooled at the last day, so do not become discouraged and fooled in the present age. By their fruits, you will recognize them (Matthew 7:20).