By Sarah Zaske, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Indian Creek Community Church, Olathe, Kansas
Lord, thank you for the life-changing power of your Word. Help me to obey your Word, so that my ways may please you and lead others to you.
“If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
Trademarks are everywhere; each one saying something unique about the individual wearing it. Sport the swoosh and people know that you prefer the basketball court to the bowling alley. Wear a college logo and others know to whom your devotion (and possibly part of your bank account) belongs. Somehow, the green mermaid on the coffee cup has become a modern-day fashion accessory.
As Christians, we are called to wear a trademark; that trademark is love. In fact, Jesus says there is one way everyone will know we follow him; quite simply, if we have love for one another.
How does our love as Christians stand out from the rest? After all, it’s not uncommon for those we consider unbelievers to show love. In fact, philanthropy has become en vogue in recent years. What you may find is that while many people show love, they often do it expecting something in return: friendship love, familial love, sensual love, possibly even self-centered love. But the type of love that Jesus desires us to have is distinct – it’s agape love.
This love is selfless and sacrificial. It confounds the world because its hallmark is giving without getting. Serving without being served. Helping when it’s hard. Caring when it costs. Yet, it is this kind of love that will capture the attention of those around us and let them know that we are Jesus-followers.
This love was the foundation and the fuel of the early church. Tertullian, an early church scholar, recorded that the Roman pagans, in describing the early church, exclaimed, “See how they love one another!” The church was busy loving, and the world was taking notice.
In the third century, a plague devastated the Roman Empire; thousands died daily. While most were fleeing and others were throwing their loved ones into the streets to avoid the plague of death, history records that the Christians relentlessly tended to the sick with no regard for their own safety, often becoming infected with the disease themselves. They laid down their lives in love – literally.
The reputation of these early Christians may be best summed up by Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome, who said, “These impious Galileans (Christians) not only feed their own, but ours also; welcoming them with their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted with cakes.” Much to his disdain, Julian’s dying words were “vicisi Galilaee,” meaning, “You Christians have conquered!”
As we reflect on the radical love of our predecessors, may our faith be stirred up for what God can do in this generation when we choose radical love, every day, regardless of the cost. As Christ’s love compels us, may we be known for our love, as they were known for their love.
Reflect on how you have shown love to those around you in the past week. What type of love were you exhibiting? Find one way to selflessly serve someone else with agape love today.
Lord, I know that I can only love because you first loved me. Today, reveal your love to me in greater ways, fill me with your love for others, and empower me to act in practical ways to love others as you love them.