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How can you identify a Christian?

The Vineyard

Dear Friends:

Acts 20:36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

It’s been said that in the early church members of the body of Christ could easily be identified by “how they loved each other”.  Throughout the history of the church there are other examples of how this means of recognition continued—and even today, I am sure.  But you don’t hear about it very often. It’s more common to hear about how Christians are “divided” or worse, how they commonly ignore each other.

But no so in the early church nor in those small communities that dared to live in Christian community over the past 2000 years.  But I think at least two things are rather “needed” for the bond of love to be so great. First, the center of the community cannot be political, or ethnic or even “youth” or protecting the elderly (both are worthy endeavors, of course), but it must be truly Christ, the author of love, Himself. Those in love with Him, will quite naturally be in love with others—-it’s unstoppable.  But it seems that the modern Christian today looks far too much at humanitarian needs FIRST and Jesus Christ, second—-and ends up loving neither.

The second need for this bond of love among believers is persecution.  And let me quickly say that only an idiot would look for persecution, yet it seems to me that the church has grown deepest and fastest where it is attacked, illegal and not kindly regarded. In fact, it’s been argued that Christianity might have covered the world had the persecution of the church not ended, to a large degree, in the fourth century.

But in my country, the USA, while no one would deny that we have religious freedom, I think that we are mistaken to think that we are  not  persecuted. One need only look at Hollywood, the media (in general) and our the manner in which our schools and governments are operated and recognize that an ardent follower of Jesus is treated  with less respect and admiration than a nominal follower of Jesus.

So why don’t we love each other like these folks loved Paul? We’re not, by in large, in love with Jesus. We like what He says about the sins of others and we are delighted that He took our punishment on the cross. But He is not on the thrones of our hearts and we have not “abandoned all" to Him. The early Christians were paupers for the cause—they gave all they had to follow Him—-total abandonment.  When we wake from our spiritual slumber and “love as He loved” we will be easier to identify in a crowd.

Dean Barley

The Vineyard

336 351 2070

919 360 8493 (Mobile)

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