A new command I gave you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:34-35
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me
— John 17:22-23
Not too long ago a pastor whom I have known for several years asked me what my main passion in ministry is. I did not need to think about it — my main passion in ministry is the fellowship and unity within the body of Christ.
Church unity has always been my main focus as a pastor. Anyone who has heard me preach more than one sermon knows that I quote John 13:34-35 (see above) more than any other passage. The other passage is Ephesians 4:3 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. These Scriptures tell us that our unity is our greatest witness in an unbelieving world, and unity takes effort.
I have been part of this church family for 40 years. I have been through four changes of pastors: two of them difficult, one devastating. When I became pastor (the fourth change), we were about 35 people who were hurt, discouraged, and divided. Those who remained prayed through many challenges and worked hard to maintain the unity in the church.
According to Jesus, the greatest evidence of Christ we can demonstrate to the world is to love one another and live in Christ-centered unity. When Christians are looking for a new church they are looking for something specific: music, preaching, programs, etc. What will attract a non-believer is when the church is genuine in its love for one another, When others see this type of community they will want to know more. The best example is found in Acts 2:42-47.
In the church that I grew up in we did not sing all that much, but one of the songs I remember uses the John 13 passage as its chorus:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
When Jesus gave his High Priestly Prayer (John 17) he said that the world will know Jesus is Lord when the church lives in perfect unity. This makes sense: why would anyone be convinced that God is loving, merciful, gracious, and forgiving if we are not loving, merciful, gracious, and forgiving with one another? I would not go to a church that did not show Christ-like love for one another.
We live in an entertainment-driven culture, and the church has bought into it. Churches use all kinds of styles and gimmicks to attract people. Yet Christ’s words remain as true today as when he said them: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Therefore, let us continue to love one another, and let us live in perfect unity.
Your servant in Christ,