A tree is a tree is a tree…how can you tell?
I took all of these pictures at my husband’s softball game a few weeks ago. All trees, although they all look completely different! Tall, short, spindly, bushy, green leaves, red leaves, needles, straight limbs, convoluted limbs…but all definitely trees. What makes a tree a tree? Of course we all know the answer, and can readily identify any trees in our surroundings as trees. A tree is usually tall with a woody trunk, and has many branches with leaves that fall in the autumn or remain year-round.
Can people around us just as easily identify us as believers in Christ? We may have different ways of expressing our faith, but are there certain characteristics every believer should have that distinguish him or her from the rest of the world? Jesus told his disciples, “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Later, He prayed that all believers would “be brought to complete unity” as evidence that He was sent from God, and that God loves them (John 17:23).
So, love and unity. How are we doing with those two? The world is watching how we treat one another! Are we showing love to other believers? Are we focusing on the foundations of our mutual salvation, or choking on bones of contentious division? I’m sure some of us will be a bit surprised when we enter heaven and discover who else is there! Paul says in Romans 14:12-13, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
Not only are we to love one another within the body of Christ, but we are to love those outside the church. If Jesus told us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27), I’m pretty sure He didn’t mean for us to be rude to the cashier at the grocery store because she double-scanned an item accidentally, or to give a skimpy tip to the waiter because he forgot our extra salad dressing. We need to remember the great price Jesus paid for our ransom from death, and show mercy to all (not just the nice ones!). We may not think they deserve it, but neither do we! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Let God’s Spirit guide your steps in unity, love and mercy, and show compelling evidence of God’s work in your life.