“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The real litmus test of any true Christian who claims to be a disciple of Jesus or follower of Jesus is whether or not this person truly loves those they encounter. Do they show any sincere care or compassion for all their fellow human beings? Do they have an invested interest in everyone’s well-being? Or, do they put up walls of separation and accept only some people only some of the time while others they simply do not accept at all?
So often it seems like “love thy neighbor” only applies to those we agree with or like already. People seek out specifically those that are in agreement with them. Those who are very similar and share many common threads with.
There are many who claim to be Christian yet are willing to persecute Mexicans, Muslims, the LGBT community, and deny women the right to make decisions upon their own health and family planning. There are some Christians who would like to deny financial support to social welfare programs that would aid veterans, homeless, elderly, impoverished families, and children in need, as well as the disabled. There are some Christians who offer prayers and condolences for victims of gun violence and tragedies involving assault weapons but would rather look away from encouraging responsible gun laws pushing for increased background checks, assault weapons bans, and other measures.
There are some Christians that allow partisan politics and rhetoric dictate their moral codes rather than accept the guide the Bible offers. How can they be Christian and not follow Christ’s example or ignore His Gospel teachings? How can they claim to be Christian but then latch only onto the Old Testament and then only specific verses in the Mosaic Law when criticizing or condemning homosexuality and the LGBT community for example?
There is a terrible disconnect between these so-called Christians and what it is Christ is truly teaching us about love, compassion, charity, humility, respect for others, and care for others.
I often feel that there are some Christians out there that are Christian in name only, glad to be Christian when it is of some benefit to themselves– as in a benefit to their image or reputation among friends or their community. They give themselves their own peace of mind by affirming to themselves that they have this affiliation and this identity. They do not realize the obligations and responsibilities that come with the affiliation. It is not enough to say you are Christian– you need to start acting like one!
People can start being real Christians by first paying closer attention to what it is that Christ is saying– and doing! You can start being a better Christian by doing what Jesus is asking of those that would follow him! Love God and love one another as you would want to be loved.
That means you are doing more than just tolerating someone. You are giving every person you meet respect and courtesy. You are genuine with that person. You are sincere with that person. You are invested in every person’s well-being. You seek that justice is applied fairly and equally to all persons as you would want justice and fairness applied to you. It means you want others to have equal access to the same human, civil, and basic natural rights as yourself.
Love should be unconditional. In reality, is it? We have a hard time loving those that would abuse or harm or hurt us. We have a hard time loving criminals and people who would commit inhuman acts of violence or terrorism. We have a hard time with the idea of loving someone who would exploit or manipulate us. We struggle to be as forgiving as Jesus. We struggle to see the good in all people in all situations. Yet we do have the means to try and we do have the means to give our greatest struggles to God through prayer. We may not be all-loving saints… but we can be better than bigots and racists and homophobes or transphobes. We can make choices to change how we think and feel about others and we can certain set a better example for others.