When we think of evangelism, we often think of it in terms of the church going to out and engaging the lost. For we understand the Great Commission, when Jesus told his followers in Matthew 28, “Go out and make disciples of all nations.”
What we may overlook in the evangelistic process is not ‘the church going out,’ but ‘the church being the church.’ Let me explain.
While Jesus was giving His final marching orders just before His arrest and crucifixion in what we know commonly as the ‘Upper Room Discourse,’ He said:
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Here we get a hint into the upcoming corporate witness of the believing community of Jesus followers. For one of the distinguishing characteristics of their witness to the world would simply be their love for one another. Simple, yes. Profound, yes. Easy…not so much.
And two thousand years later we can identify. Can I get an amen?
You see, Jesus knew a community united would be powerful and effective, a community divided weak and ineffective.
I have witnessed this reality in my own Christian experience. Thinking back to the 1990’s just before entering vocational Christian work for the first time, a good friend gave me forewarning. He said, “Larry, the most difficult thing about ministry will not be your outreach, it will be getting along with your co-laborers!” And I have learned, over and over again, sometimes painfully so, that a house divided cannot stand! Perhaps you’ve also experienced this as you’ve sought to function in a local church family or ministry organization. But a house united is powerful. And the power behind that unity is love, the love of God expressed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the church is born in Acts 2, we see 3000 people baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Immediately following, Jesus’ words from John 13:35 will come into clearer focus:
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
It is challenging to comprehend the love these early believers had for one another, because in our contemporary church, we’re not of ‘one accord.’ Yet, we see the standard and ought strive to ‘do life together,’ loving one another. And for what purpose?
That they may know?
‘They’ referring to those who’ve not yet met the Savior. It seems to me our saltiness and brightness (Matthew 5:13-16) is somewhat connected to our love for one another. And yes, as individuals we strive to be salt and light. Yet, our saltiness and brightness also contains a corporate component because you and I are part of one body – called the Church. You can study a bit of the functioning of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31.
And that body will most effectively function when moving in a coordinated effort – that effort being driven again by love. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul shows the way of love in the ‘love chapter’ – 1 Corinthians 13. And in this section of the chapter he cuts to the core of the matter of love:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
In Acts 2 that corporate witness of the church characterized by love was incredibly powerful and attractive. The effect of that loving community of faith resulted in the church finding ‘favor with all the people’ and ‘the Lord adding to the church daily those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47).
The Power of Love for you and I is to live out the Sweet Song of Salvation – united, engaged, and committed to the effort of the body – that they may know! This thrust is characterized by love and the first example of this corporate love and witness is seen in Acts 2.
What does it mean for you and I to fulfill this command to ‘love one another?’ That is a matter of prayer. It Certainly it looks different in application for each of us, but the principles are overarching as we see.
May we grow in our love for one another, that they may know we are His disciples – to the end that some would come to know Jesus personally! Amen!