"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am only a resounding gong
or clanging symbol... and if I have a faith that can
remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender
my body to the flames, but have not love,
I gain nothing."
So what is your biggest witness? Love for one another demonstrated through unity in Christ. One of Jesus' last prayers was, "My prayer is...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)
It was Jesus who also said, the greatest commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all soul and with all your mind... And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)
Then in 1 John 5:3, the Word says, "This is love for God: to obey his commands." In fact, the way that we know that we have come to know God is if we obey his commands. "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1John 2:3-4)
How is love demonstrated among us? Yes, it is when we give of our time in service. Yes, it is when we give of our resources to the poor and serve one another. However, the biggest demonstration of love is unity in Christ- in obedience to God's commands.
Love isn't all the grandiose things that we do for God or in God's name. It's how we treat one another. "Love is patient, love is kind...It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.(!) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.(!) Love never fails..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Since then this is the character of love, why are we not bearing with one another more? Why do we not endeavor to walk in unity, to overcome misunderstandings and offenses? If we say that we are following Christ, that we are his disciples and have the power of his Holy Spirit within us, ought we not then to more readily overcome the perceived slights or offenses that we may encounter from within the body of Christ?
I reiterate Paul's appeal in 1 Corinthians chapter one, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."
To agree with one another does not mean that we will agree on every point, for it is clear in scripture even the disciples didn't agree on every tenet of faith. For example, the Word of God says in Romans 14: "One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables...One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike... let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put a stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way...Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. " (Verses: 2, 5, 13, 19)
The world will not come to know Christ because of the gospel we preach with our mouths, but rather with the gospel we preach with our lives. Paul told Timothy in 1Timothy 4, "...set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (verse12). And to "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (verse 16).
Jesus loved us with his life. "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ...if any fellowship with the Spirit..." Paul exhorted, "then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ..." (Philippians 2:1-5)
When you're tempted to give up on someone, a relationship, a brother or sister in Christ, or even your church, think of Jesus' prayer: "My prayer is...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)
Your biggest witness is demonstrated in how you love and get along with your brother and sister in Christ. How's your witness?
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give (us) a spirit of unity among (ourselves) as (we) follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth (we) may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Amen