They’ll know we are Christians … by our love?

We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit
we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity
may one day be restored:

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love.

Remember the old song? We sang it in church a lot, in the ’70s. Is it true? I wonder.

This column got me thinking along those lines.

Raised in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, I was primed ‘n ready to give a reason to anyone who asked about the hope that was in me (1 Peter 3:15). Problem was, no one asked. Is that their fault, or mine? I don’t know.

I remember going to grad night at King’s Island my senior year. I went with my friend and her parents, and we had just gotten on the road when we came across a horrific car accident. My friend and I stayed in the car while her parents got out and were helping the people get out of their car, holding bleeding and scared children, etc.

When I got home, I told my mom about this. She started crying. I was always traumatized by my mom crying, although she usually reserved these bouts for issues regarding her in-laws. This time, she said, “Your friend’s family aren’t even Christians!”

The insinuation being, we were Christians, and yet, I couldn’t imagine our family stopping and helping people who’d had a car crash.

Some of my best friends aren’t Christians, to my knowledge. They are kind. They lead good lives. If they’re facing severe inner turmoil or emptiness, I see no evidence. What can I make of this? It’s a conundrum, to be sure.

I wonder how much of our behavior stems from our religious beliefs, and how much from our basic personality. Remember studying the four basic temperaments in high school psych classes? Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholy? If you could choose the one you least wanted, it would probably be melancholy — yet that’s the one I pulled out of the hat.

I’m Eeyore-come-to-life, glass is half empty, supply your own cliche. As a toddler, Mom recorded me fretting that Santa would most likely get cancer from smoking that pipe. I love it, because that is so me. And yet, how should I reconcile this temperament with having the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart?

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis regarding the interaction of our temperament and the way we live our lives:

Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises. (Mere Christianity: Morality and Psychoanalysis)

So, there is your thought for the day. What has your experience been? Have the Christians you’ve known been the most loving people in your life? Should our religion overcome our temperament? Or is that even possible?

5 thoughts on “They’ll know we are Christians … by our love?

  1. My dad, a devout Christian, possessed a peace that passed understanding, even when he went through very dark days.

  2. Sadly no they haven’t been. And it kept from becoming a Christian for years. Then I realized they were just human. And I was just like them. That helped. But no, to non-Christians, few Christians show the love of Jesus to anyone. To non-Christians we too often look intolerant (in the REAL sense of that word) and smug. We are humans and we are Christians. They are humans and they are not Christians. None of us was made to be perfect. It’s sad how it divides us.

  3. Great post! Lots of food for thought for sure. The chorus you referred to was a real favorite of mine, and I think that we HOPE they will know that we are Christians by our love. Yet we so often fall short of being a good witness to others because we are too concerned about being “politically correct” or somehow offensive to others. When I stop to think about the Christians that I most looked up to over the years, most of them were lovely people with a special glow about them. They were happy people who cared about others and were helpful without being “preachy” or overbearing in any way.

    I, too, was raised in a Christian home with weekly church attendance expected and never questioned, but that was OK because I wanted to be there. I actually did listen to the sermons at an early age (at least as much as I could comprehend with my lack of life’s experiences then), and I gave my heart to Jesus at age 8. I remember everything about that evening even though it happened about 63 and 1/2 years ago. Although being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect or keep sin away, it certainly has helped me through a horde of trials and tribulations along life’s pathway! My favorite old hymn is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, which says it all and works for me.

  4. I have been blessed to know many mature Christians from whom the joy of Christ shone through in everything they did. They are a blessing.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.