One identifying mark of a follower of Jesus is love for fellow believers. Jesus Himself was recorded in John 13:35 to have said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
The kind of love that distinguishes followers of Christ is vividly detailed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It is long-suffering and kind, it doesn't envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful and it doesn't rejoice in wrongdoing. It rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. And it never ends.
The love that marks true believers is regularly and readily on display in Christian homes, in local churches and in places where believers are working together for the glory of God. This love is one of the most attractive things about those who follow Jesus.
But what about those times when you do not love your brother or sister in Christ? What of those times when there is a conflict, disagreement, a strain in the relationship or just simply a personality difference? What is a Christian to do then?
I am embarrassed to confess this, but had thoughts about getting even with this person and wanting others to not like this person. Nothing about my relationship with this fellow believer would have marked me as a follower of Christ.
What should a Christian do when they find themselves in this situation?
In my case, God brought me across another "love" verse in the Bible. I Thessalonians 4:9 reads: "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." In that verse, God showed me that He could teach me to love someone that I didn't even like.
This truth was a revelation to me. I confessed to the Lord that I did not like the person in question. I also confessed that I believed God did love this fellow believer and prayed that God would teach me how to love that person also.
God did indeed teach me to love. The details are not important, but suffice to say that over the next few months, God taught me to love this individual to the point that this person eventually became one of my favorite people. Only God could have brought about this change.
As followers of Jesus living in a culture where Christians may divide over a wide array of issues, it is essential to remember that one of the identifying marks of a follower of Christ is love. While we may at times disagree on some things, may we also agree that those who are blood-bought followers of the risen King are identified as such when we love each other.
If you are having a hard time loving a brother or sister in Christ at this moment, then turn to the one who demonstrated His love for them by dying on the cross in their place. Ask Him to teach you to love that one and watch God do what only God can do.
Todd Gray is executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.