Many families display their faith this time of year by decorating their homes with lights and sending Christmas cards with Christian messages. Since the early days of the church, Christians have displayed their faith in many ways: special attire and haircuts, cross necklaces and lapel pins, and decals and bumper stickers are only a few examples.
While there’s nothing wrong with these things, Jesus gave us a much more powerful way to demonstrate our faith. It’s a universal mark for Christians of every era and every season—a mark we often disregard.
In some of His last words, Jesus explained to His disciples what was to be the distinguishing mark of a Christian.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35
Christmas can bring out the best in people. It can also bring out the worst if family relationships are strained. It’s easy to forget that careless comments about in-laws or extended family members who are hard to be around—much less love—can fall on the ears of co-workers and colleagues who may be looking for evidence against Christianity.
Animosity toward Christians is real, according to findings from American National Election Studies. About one-third of survey respondents rated feelings toward conservative Christians significantly lower than other religious and racial groups. Sadly, we’ve provided some legitimate grounds for their negative perception.
The media regularly portrays Christians as unloving and bigoted. Perhaps you know people in your workplace who hold a negative views of Christianity. Maybe people in your own family—relatives you’ll spend time with over the holidays—look down on your faith.
In his classic essay, The Mark of a Christian, Francis Schaeffer comments on this command:
Upon his authority he [Jesus] gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians…We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians…
Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.
In addition to the lights and Christmas trees and cards that display our faith this season, let's be mindful that Jesus called us to be light in a dark world. We do this by demonstrating His love. And when we do, like the old song says, "They will know we are Christians by our love."