How are Jesus’ disciples known

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Each phrase is worth pondering.

“By this.” He’s given us a sign, a signal, a symbol. It’s something  tangible, visible, specific. He can point at it and say “This,” as in, “Not That or That, but This.” The word “this” eliminates all the “thats.” In other words, we don’t get to choose the sign; He does. And He’s selected THIS.

“All people.” Not “a few of your most observant friends” or “some random folks from time to time,” but “all people.”

“Will know.” It will be obvious. They will encounter something so distinct and so unusual, they won’t have to wonder. The point will be inescapable. They’ll just know.

“You are.” That’s us. Little old you and little old me. Jesus gave you and me something to do that will make all those people just know something about us. What?

“My disciples.” They’ll know we are Jesus’ followers. “Disciple” means adherent, and it includes both learning from and obeying. We might think of an apprentice in the trades, hearing, watching, copying, and ultimately resembling his or her master.

“If.” It’s a condition, not a guarantee. He’s not making a promise. We could fail at this.

“You have love.” Finally! There it is! This is the sign, the “this-not-that” which Jesus singles out, the thing everyone everywhere will notice, the universally recognized imprint of our Master. Four letters: L  O  V  E. Not our wisdom. Not our mystical spirituality. Not even our joy, our peace, or our morality. Our love.

“For one another.” This group is both broader and narrower than we might prefer. Jesus’ original statement was made to the 11 men in His inner circle—the 12 apostles minus Judas, who had just left the room. The point is, He’s referring to the other Christians He has gathered into the group right around you. Not the people you might prefer if you could select them yourself. Not the friends you’ve known for a long time and feel connected to who are way over there. Not the select few who are your age and share your views. “One another” is the group of Christians who recognize you as “one” of them and whom you recognize as “another” part of you. To put it in a word, it’s your church.

Love them. Like Jesus. So the world will know. You follow Him….