When God sent Moses to the children of Israel in the book of Exodus, He gave him miraculous signs to perform so that the people would believe that God truly sent him. In the same way, when Elijah the prophet spoke to his unbelieving nation, he called down fire from heaven to prove that God had really spoken through him. Yet Jesus said to His disciples that it was by our love for one another, not by our miracles, that the world would know that we were His disciples. Isn’t that striking?
To be sure, signs, wonders, and miracles were and are important. When they are performed in Jesus’ name, they point to the fact that He has risen from the dead. They demonstrate that He is still alive and working in power. They vindicate the message we are preaching. (For a wonderful, contemporary story from Nepal, see here.)
But those miracles, in and of themselves, do not demonstrate that we are the disciples of Jesus. Instead, it is our love for one another that demonstrates this. Why is that so?
Simply stated, it’s because God can work miracles through anyone. Supernatural gifts can work through us whenever God desires, even if our own lives are not right with Him. But to have real love one for another speaks of a changed life. It speaks of having been with Jesus.
As Matthew Henry explained, “Brotherly love is the badge of Christ’s disciples. By this he knows them, by this they may know themselves (1 Jn. 2:14), and by this others may know them. This is the livery of his family, the distinguishing character of his disciples; this he would have them noted for, as that wherein they excelled all others—their loving one another. This was what their Master was famous for; all that ever heard of him have heard of his love, his great love; and therefore, if you see any people more affectionate one to another than what is common, say, ‘Certainly these are the followers of Christ, they have been with Jesus.’”
This really is the heart of the matter. Jesus has a certain reputation in the world. Even unbelievers know the story of His great love. Many of them have heard that He died for the sins of the world and that He taught us to love our enemies. And many understand that He practiced what He preached.
That is how Jesus is known to the world. And that means that the world expects those who claim to be His followers to be different than others, even faulting us for falling short of the mark. In the words of the Indian philosopher Bara Dada, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”
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SOURCE: AskDrBrown.org, Michael Brown
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.