By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
It isn’t our correct theology about God, having Christian morals or how much time we spend praying that sets us apart. Love for others is our defining mark. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus’ love in us, overflowing to others, marks us as His disciples.
Consider the contrast between being religious and being a disciple of Jesus. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day—scribes and Pharisees—didn’t care about people. They didn’t treat the poor, the widowed, or the oppressed with compassion. Rather they heaped guilt and shame upon people by shunning them or pointing out their sins. They burdened people with laws they couldn’t obey. They tore down others to elevate themselves.
Jesus did the exact opposite. People mattered to Him. He valued and cherished each unique one. By treating men, women, and children—tax collectors, prostitutes, and invalids—with care and compassion, He revealed to each their worth as struggling, yet beautiful human beings created in the image of God.
God doesn’t love us grudgingly. He doesn’t love us because He is good and that is the right thing to do. He is not disgusted with us in some way, but polite enough to hide His displeasure. Jesus sees right and wrong, but He doesn’t judge. His love for you is wholehearted, spontaneous, complete. He loves you because you are His treasure. He delights in you.
To be loved like that is what every soul desires. We were created to know it. Deep in the core of each of us, we long to be treated with kindness—to be delighted in—to be valued for who we are.
Love is what we need and love defines us as Jesus’ disciples. In the amazing plan of God, when we come to know Jesus’ unconditional love for us, we begin to express that same love to others. Knowing Jesus’ love allows us to put all judgment aside and simply love. In fact, our love for others is our defining mark; it is evidence we have been with Jesus.
And, in the amazing plan of God, our love for others attracts them to Jesus—the source of love.
Jesus calls us to be His witnesses to the world. He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). We fish with His love. Love attracts people to Him because it fulfills the deepest need of every hurting, longing heart.
Jesus’ last miracle recorded in Scripture had to do with fishing in this way. John, Peter, and several of the other disciples had been fishing all night without a single catch. Jesus appeared on the shore and called out, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat” (John 21:6). They did … and netted a huge catch.
Later, after breakfast on the shore, Jesus took Peter aside. Three times He asked the disciple, “Do you love Me?” And, after Peter responded, “Yes, Lord,” Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.” “Tend My sheep.” “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15–17).
Three times Peter had denied Jesus and three times Jesus restored the man by reinforcing that he still had a part in God’s plan in being a fisher of men—by caring for others.
Do you see it? Jesus is speaking to us. “Fishers of men—disciples of Mine—cast your net on the right side. Fish in a different way. Feed My lambs (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Care for My people (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Lift them up and encourage them with the truth of who they are and who I am. Treasure them as I do. Let them know how much I love them. Let My love, expressed through you, draw people to Me that they might become whole.”
My dear brother, my dear sister, love is evidence that you follow the One who is the source of the love we all so desperately need. Radiating God’s love is your witness to the world. Your love for one another marks you as a fisher of men—a true disciple of Jesus.
Ponder for a Moment
In what ways might your opinion or judgement of a person have prevented you from loving them?
Who can you celebrate today? Who can you delight in today? Who can you love today?