Read John 13:34-35
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (NLT)
When we read the history of the Christian church, we are confronted with a very mixed record. We read of wonderful initiatives and examples that have enriched humankind. The church has helped keep society going in hard times.
Then again, it has been guilty of monstrous abuse of power. Its leaders have cruelly manipulated needy and vulnerable people. It has grown rich at the expense of the poor. It has distorted the teachings and examples of Jesus. Ironically, the church seems to be at its best when it has least political and social power.
And, contrary to this teaching of Jesus in our text, it has often degenerated into not so civil wars amongst its members. We read of fellow believers shunning one another and even persecuting one another because of differing beliefs on the Lord’s Supper or baptism. We hear of churches led by ecclesiastical egotists who want to build personal empires rather than advance the kingdom of God.
If Jesus is right about our love for one another being the mark of our discipleship, then we have to realise we may have some work to do. Any talk about sound doctrine, and any attack on secularism and atheism may fall flat if we are not showing love and respect for one another within the church. We end up fighting important battles with one hand tied behind our back. And when we speak, few are listening.
The church can at times be its own worst enemy.