Summary: Three ways our relationships with other Christians demonstrates our faith in Jesus
When I was in high school my friends always told me that I was born twenty years too late. You see, in high school I idealized the countercultural movement of the 1960s, when the youth culture was demonstrating against everything from the Viet Nam War to Civil Rights. But I was in high school in the late 1970s, so there was little left to demonstrate about. You might say I was a rebel without a cause. Finally I did get involved in the “No Nukes” movement, but to be honest I really went to those political demonstrations to meet girls. I didn’t know much about what I was demonstrating against, but hey if Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, and Nash said it was bad it must be...right?
People demonstrate against things so the world will know what they believe and why they believe it. In the face of a culture that’s sometimes indifferent to things that many people are passionate about most of us have a need to make our views known, to demonstrate. When we vote we demonstrate our beliefs by the way we vote. Some people demonstrate by joining political organizations, others by writing letters to government leaders or editorial pages for the local newspaper. Some people demonstrate by picketing, whether it’s an abortion clinic or a casino. Some people get violent and extreme in the way they demonstrate. Consider some of the tactics of the organization PETA--People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals--to actually storm laboratories and release the lab rats or to douse a person wearing a fur coat with a bucket full of red paint. People demonstrate so the world will know what they stand for, what’s truly important to them, what they’re passionate about.
Jesus Christ gave his followers very specific instructions on how to demonstrate their Christian faith. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus Christ took on the role of a servant and washed his followers’ feet, something that was countercultural, something that Peter nearly refused to have done because it went so against the grain of their culture. Then Jesus said these words: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will all people know that you are my followers, if you love one another” (John 13:34-36).
According to Jesus Christ the primary way to demonstrate our Christian faith to the world is to love other followers of Jesus Christ. This is not to say that writing letters, voting, or picketing are not ways to demonstrate our beliefs, but it is to say that the primary way Jesus wants us to demonstrate is through loving relationships with other Christians.
This is also not to say Christians are off the hook from loving those who don’t follow Jesus Christ--as if this command was saying to love other Christians but it’s okay to hate those who are against the Christian faith--but this command is saying that love starts where we are, that we begin by loving each other--and if we can’t love each other we’re not going to be able to branch out from that. This is the main thing when it comes to demonstrating to the world that we follow Jesus Christ--our capacity to love each other.
Today we’re going to talk about walking with others in this journey. You see, the spiritual journey is not a solitary walk, it’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ lived out in community with other Christians, lived out through Jesus Christ’s Church. The idea that spirituality is private is not found anywhere in the Bible. The Bible says that in the spiritual journey of the Christian life we walk together, usually in the context of being part of the local church...the only real question is how we walk together. Do we walk together in love, forgiving each other when we blow it, lifting each other up when one of us falls? Or do we walk together in anger, lashing out when a companion on the journey disagrees with us, blaming our others when we stumble and fall? Today we’re going to see how our capacity to develop loving relationships with each other in the spiritual journey is the primary way to demonstrate our faith to the world. We’re going to see three ways our relationships with each other demonstrate our faith.
I. Demonstration to the World (3:11-15).
John begins his call to walk with others in love by going back to basics in vv. 11-15. These are strong words...so John goes back to the beginning, back to his readers’ very first teaching about the Christian life: to love each other. Most likely John is thinking of the words of Jesus I just quoted from John 13, that all people would know that we are Jesus’ followers by our capacity to love each other as we walk the spiritual journey together.