The early Church historian, St. Jerome tells this story about the apostle John. “When the venerable John was very advanced in age and could no longer walk to the meetings of the church but was carried by his disciples, he always uttered the same address to the church; he reminded them of that one commandment which he received from Christ himself, as comprising all the rest, informing the distinction of the new covenant.”My little children, love one another.” When the brothers and sisters, Wearied of hearing the same things so often, asked why he repeated the same thing he replied, “Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if this one thing be attained, it is enough.”
John’s test of true religion is simple. We know our religion is true because we love one another. It’s a matter of life and death. Most are not murderers, but hating our brothers and sisters? We’ve probably all been guilty of that at one time or another, stirring up discord in the church when our preferences, opinions, and comfort are disturbed.To love means to live and to cause to live. Love brings life! Does your Christianity bring life or death to people?
False religion brings condemnation and true religion brings confidence. False religion deals in guilt and manipulation. True religion loves in truth and action. William Barclay said, “We cannot begin to live the Christian life until we accept Jesus Christ for what he is, and we have not accepted him in any real sense of the term until our attitude to others is the same as his own attitude of love.”
John says, “Little children, Love one another.” This is true religion.
We need to look at our not only our official doctrine of the church, though that matters, but more along the lines of do we practice what we preach? If someone were to give us a test to determine what we believe through our actions, not our words, would we pass the test? What does our faith-practice say about what we really believe?
This matters immensely in our day and age. The #1 charge against Christians is hypocrisy. Let’s make a clear distinction here between hypocrisy — which is pretending to be something/someone that you’re really not or not really intending to become something/someone that you’re supposed to be — and failure (due to ignorance & sin) to live fully into your identity in Christ. People understand that Christians won’t be perfect. They expect that but they also expect Christians to be humble, acknowledge they aren’t perfect, seek to understand those who are different, treat people as they want to be treated, and ask for forgiveness when they’ve done something wrong. What people don’t understand are Christians that act and speak in ways that are contrary to Jesus’ life and teachings.
Micah 6:8 says: What does the Lord require? Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.
James 1:27 says, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
John says, ‘Little children, love one another. Not with your words, but in truth and action.’
Our actions and our words reveal our beliefs, so — What is your faith saying?