"I Didn't Know You Were A Christian"

As a child, I always wondered who I was supposed to be. I knew I believed in God and I believed that he had sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay for my sins. I did not, however, know how that belief was supposed to take shape in my day-to-day life. Should I go to church every Sunday and invite my friends over and over to come with me? Should I wear a WWJD bracelet or get a WWJD bumper sticker? Should I only listen to K-Love on the radio? The question of how being a follower of Christ should look constantly ran through my head and I spent the majority of my life getting different answers from different people—living in constant confusion.

It all truly compounded for me though one day when a friend said to me, "I didn’t know you were a Christian too,” after encouraging her with scripture during a trying time in her life. For a moment I was ashamed, and then for an instant I was proud; but after the flicker of pleasure expired, I was left confused and uneasy.

I was ashamed because I was told as a small child that if you are truly living for God, your beliefs will never need to be spoken. Your actions should broadcast your faith for you—and clearly, I had failed.

I was proud because in a world where being a Christian sometimes comes with a negative connotation, I achieved the unimaginable. I became friends with and deeply got to know an individual without causing her to feel as though I would abandon her if she shared her most intimate secrets with me.

I then became confused. Following Christ is awesome, and it’s so awesome that I wish the whole world knew about it, but how was I supposed to make this happen without coming off too strong? I didn’t know if I was supposed to be ashamed that my beliefs weren’t obvious to an outsider, or if I was supposed to be proud that I was able to be friends with individuals in all walks of life. Once again, I was left yearning for answers to the following three questions:

  1. How was I supposed to share what amazing thing I have in my life (Jesus) with the world?

  2. What actions was I supposed to be doing in order to broadcast my faith, and why did broadcasting my faith feel like such an important part of having it? 

  3. Why was my friend so surprised that I had been able to spend so much time with her without pushing my beliefs onto her? 

The answer to the first two questions is found 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 everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Loving one another is not simply a good work to be done. Loving one another is a direct command from Jesus to each and every person who aspires to follow him. By this one thing—loving one another—everyone will know that you are a follower of Christ. 

Can it really be that simple? Doesn’t our Sunday morning attendance, the way we dress, our doctrine, how often we pray, how rarely we sin, or our WWJD bumper sticker show how strong of a believer we are? NO! As it turns out, those actions simply show how religious we are. Only by loving one another, just as Christ loved us, will our faith be recognized by others.

Loving one another is the defining characteristic that Jesus gave to us to tell us what walking with Him should look like on the outside. He has commanded us to love one another. No matter how devotedto our faith we are, we cannot follow Jesus without loving one another. We can be religious, but we cannot truly know Him, truly follow Him or deeply experience His presence without loving one another. We are not called to perfection, we are called to be disciples—to love one another, just at Christ first loved us.

  1. We are commanded to share the amazing thing we have in our lives (Jesus) with the world—through loving one another. We are called to broadcast our faith—by loving one another.

  2. Broadcasting our faith feels like such an important part of having it, because we have been commanded to do so—through loving one another.

But if His command to love one another is so clear, why does the third question still remain unanswered?

“Why was my friend so surprised that I had been able to spend so much time with her without pushing my beliefs onto her?”

The answer to my last question is not directly found in the passage above. However, it can be answered just as simply: followers of Christ sin. 

Romans 3:23-24 says…

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

We ALL have sinned—followers of Christ, pastors, church elders, and those who haven’t set foot in a church in years. Not one is more righteous than the other, for ALL fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us who will enter into Heaven has achieved a pure and holy life. We are not flawless, we give way to worldly thoughts, and although we strive to live as disciples, we fail daily.

My friend was surprised that I managed to spend so much time with her while keeping my beliefs to myself because someone in her life had failed to love her as Jesus did. Someone in her life had chosen to further his/her own opinion rather than obeying Christ’s command and, therefore, she had yet to experience his greatness through anyone around her. 

This is not to say that whoever that person may have been is a selfish person, or that he/she is a “bad” follower of Christ. It is quite the opposite actually. This is just the simple truth behind why we need Jesus in our lives in the first place! We are all sinners, and all that we can do to be better is acknowledge our sins, look to Him, stay close to Him, and follow His commands. 

As you live each day, I encourage you to remember what you have been called to do. Remember how undeserving we all are, and how miraculous His love for us remains. Remember how easily you can make a difference in the life of another, and how deeply God desires us to demonstrate His love to those around us. He has commanded this of us, and He has made us all to individually serve a beautiful purpose on this Earth.

How can you show love to one another today?