ONE THING THAT DEFINES CHRISTIANS

(cf. 1 Thess. 4:9)

One of the points that we can know that we are Christians; one way to know that we’ve passed from death to life, is because we love the brethren. So, one way we can be sure we’re Christians is because of a very deep and abiding love for other Christians. Paul gives the word here, and it’s the word ‘philadelphia’ which means brotherly love. He says that we ought to have that kind of love for one another. Outside the pages of the New Testament, the word is always used for siblings of the same mother and the same father; brothers and sisters and relatives. But in the New Testament, this word is reserved for the intimate family relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you realize that we as a church have an even deeper relationship than our natural family does? Our natural family is only for time, while the family of God is for eternity. We really are the eschatological or the end-time family of God. We really are a supernatural ‘called-out’ family of God, and then Paul comes back to say, “…For you yourselves are taught by God to love (agape) one another. ‘Agape’ is that kind of no-strings-attached, self-giving, sacrificial love that God sent Christ to the cross with; that Christ went to the cross with. And so i think it’s a very important attitude that we ought to have toward one another.

In the list of the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22), the word fruit is singular, and i personally believe that the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape), and the rest of that list are characteristics of what love (agape) is. I think the one thing that all Christians do have in common is not a spiritual gift, for all of us have different spiritual gifts, but the one thing all Christians do have in common, if they are the true children of the Father, is love – ‘agape’ for one another. That special kind of love that says, “I’ll love you even if you don’t love me back”, “I’ll include you even if you don’t include me”, “I’ll love you even if you kick me in the teeth”. The world will know that we are Christians by our love for one another (cf. John 13:35). It’s not what spiritual gifts you have, it’s not how active you may be in certain ministries, it’s not how enthusiastic you are, it’s not how smart you are, it’s not how much faith you have, it’s not how good of a speaker you are, the criteria that divides the ‘mature’ from the ‘immature’ in the Christian faith is LOVE!