The Apostle John was given a glimpse into Heaven. There he saw a diverse group “of every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) People of all colors, cultures, languages, socioeconomic levels, and political persuasions will be in Heaven. But back on earth, we live in a world divided over issues of color, gender, political views, or wealth. The church, however, is to reflect Heaven and not be divided over those things. The New Testament says of the church, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
Jesus told us that the single-most distinguishing mark of Christ-followers should be our LOVE for one another, regardless of any of these other features. He stated in John 13:34–35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Sadly, the church does not always display Christ’s love. I’ve heard many stories of people visiting a church and having nobody even say hello to them. The history of segregation in the church is a blight on its history. Some churches give preferential treatment to the wealthy. The Apostle James rebuked some Christ-followers for showing favoritism to the well-to-do.
I’ve heard the story of one new pastor’s first Sunday. On their way in to hear his sermon, the congregation had to avoid an unkempt homeless man near their front doors. When it was time for the pastor to speak, the congregation was shocked when the homeless man walked to the microphone and began. The new pastor had dressed in dirty clothes to have a memorable sermon.
Love is to be shown by practical actions, such as “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12–13). These are some of the ways we demonstrate love.
Our world watches religious terrorists targeting people who believe differently than they do, white supremacists who attack people with darker skin color, political rivals who spout lies and innuendos, and the rich building their homes far away from the poor. But, instead of magnifying our differences, the church is to magnify the ONE thing that binds us together, our LOVE for Jesus.
Hollywood has promoted love to be a romantic feeling that overtakes you, but real love is a series of intentional choices you make to put the welfare of someone else above yourself. The best description of these actions is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This is how Christ-followers are to treat one another.
The world needs to see what real love is like, not Hollywood’s version or some lust-filled fantasy. As I said, the church on earth is to reflect what life will be like in Heaven, enjoying unity in the midst of great diversity. The one reason for our unity, and what binds us together, is our love and worship of Jesus, not conformity to some man-made condition.