y this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This statement, spoken by Jesus at the last supper, not long after He had washed His disciples’ feet, still challenges us with a nearly insurmountable goal: to demonstrate our loyalty to Christ by the way we love and serve each other.
It’s like Jesus’ other nearly impossible goal: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), spoken in the context of loving both friends and enemies alike. After all, God sends both sunshine and rain on saints and sinners; and we should be like Him.
Jesus didn’t say that orthodoxy would prove we are His disciples (although orthodoxy is a good thing); He didn’t say that our understanding of Bible prophecy would prove our status as His disciples. Jesus said that people would know His followers by their commitment to love everyone—the lovely and the unlovely.
Who would’ve guessed that this would be such a huge issue among people who are awaiting the Lord’s return in the twenty-first century? I mean, aren’t there more important things to worry about?
But if loving one another is too difficult, I’d settle for just a little civility among fellow church members. I’m weary of the incivility in both words and actions among those who find themselves on opposite sides of the many issues facing our movement. I’m not asking people to ignore their differences, or that they should not take principled stands; I’m only asking that our conversation and correspondence—both public and private—be done in a spirit of Christ.
We can disagree with one another without resorting to name-calling, baseless rumors, and innuendo, but we can’t call ourselves Christian unless we love one another—even our adversaries.
Stephen Chavez is coordinating editor for
Adventist Review. This article was published October 11, 2012.