Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
I had a funny encounter a few weeks ago at a fish fry at our church. I was standing in the kitchen (pretending to work) when one of our youth came rushing in. “Pastor Shawn,” they said, “there’s a table of women in the dining room asking who the pastor was. I pointed to you, but they didn’t believe me.” Now in the women’s defense I was dressed significantly down for the occasion. Since it was a fish fry for our youth with a youth event following I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with sandals. Not necessarily pastoral garb. How were they supposed to know? How were they supposed to be able to tell I was a pastor?
Now we all know that just like there are assumptions we make about what a pastor looks like, but there are assumptions we make about what a Christian looks like as well. Many times I think we might need to re-write the song, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…” to say what we actually think. Like:
- And they’ll know we are Christians by our bumper stickers.
- Or… They’ll know we are Christians by our t-shirts.
- They’ll know we are Christian by which political party we affiliate with.
- They’ll know we are Christians by our business name.
- They’ll know we are Christian by our music.
- They’ll know we are Christian by our facebook posts (speaking of which if you love Jesus and are reading this online you’ll post it to your wall… Just kidding, but get my drift?)
- They’ll know we are Christians by our coffee cups (remember the Starbucks debacle?).
Now, my point is this, none of the things I’ve just mentioned are necessarily bad. Sharing your faith on a facebook post or bumper sticker is great. My point is they aren’t what Jesus had in mind. When Jesus told us how people who know we were his disciples it wasn’t about what we said, but about how we loved. Because you can drive around with that Jesus fish on the back of your car, but if you park like an idiot or cut people off with special gestures, chances are your actions spoke louder than your bumper sticker. And the same thing is true for facebook, your t-shirts, and your patronage. Following Jesus isn’t something we pay lip service to, it’s a way of life. And that way is love.
But—and this is important—it’s not enough to simply say we must love. We have to define that love. Because everybody loves. Atheists love. They love their family and friends and country. They can be very generous and charitable. Muslims love. Buddhists and Hindus they love. So how will loving help people know we are disciples of Jesus?
The answer: because of the kind of love we are called to. Jesus said, “34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This love is different. This love is Jesus love. It’s love that won’t stop. It’s love that gives everything.
Jesus said to love as he loved us. So let’s review. Jesus claims us just as we are. Jesus calls us friends. Jesus welcomes strangers. Eats with sinners. Seeks out the culturally outcaste. Jesus sits and talks with those he disagrees with. He even sits and talks with those who wish him harm. Jesus washes feet in service. Jesus gives everything—even his life—in love for his children.
And that’s the love that we are called to share. That’s the love that will set us apart.
People think they have a pretty good idea of what Christians look like. They think they can tell us apart by our t-shirts or our bumper stickers or our facebook posts. But what did Jesus say? Jesus said, They will know you are my disciples by your love. What love? Love like Jesus.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.