Wednesday, October 18, 2017
When the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians”, it was not meant kindly—it was an insult. They were being ridiculed as being “little Christ’s”. The Romans later remarked, “See how they love each other”, when describing the Christians; but again, this was not as a compliment, but was intended to deride their “weakness”.
What attracts the non-believer to the follower of Jesus should be love—how we love one another and how we love those outside the family of Christ. But do I love in such a compelling manner that it is clear I am one of His?
Saint John wrote in his first letter: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Laying down my life seems to me to mean more than dying. It means living—- but not living ambitiously for my own purpose and pleasure, but instead for His purposes and for the joy of others. It is, of course, an absurd way to live, and that’s why most of us who call ourselves “Christians” don’t live that way. But there are those that did live lives of love and self-denial like this, and we admire and adore them for it! People like Saint Francis, Mother Theresa, George Mueller, Dietrich Boenhoeffer (to name a few) had the idea that Jesus (and the writers of the New Testament) meant what He said about denying ourselves and following Him; putting the needs of others first; loving without partiality, etc.
What I love about men like Saint Francis is that they DID what others talked about doing! “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I do not think it outrageous to suggest that if even a significant minority of the Catholics and Protestants who claim to know Jesus Christ proved it with their actions, the world would by and large be converted. It is not that we do not know about Him (Jesus) but rather that we do not KNOW Him. Bonhoeffer, Saint John, Saint Francis, Mother Theresa, Saint Paul—-all knew Him intimately——-and they all loved others because of it. It is impossible to KNOW Him and not love others deeply.