We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Notes from The Mark of the Christian

In this age of tatooes, brands, and slogans, Francis Shaeffer's essay entitled, The Mark of the Christian has a lot to say about how we show the world we are Christians. It also has a lot to say in this age of major mainline denomination shake-ups and ever-splitting Protestantism about Christian unity. A lot to say in only 59 very small paperback book pages.

I've had this little book for a few months now sitting on my reading shelf picking it up occassionally and reading a paragraph or two, which no way to read this book. Today is the last day of my short "sabbatical", so I decided to sit down and read it in it's entirety.

Here are some quotes:

"Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in the lapels of their coats, ...chains about their necks, even had special haircuts. Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this.... But there is a much better sign - a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back....'that ye love one another; as I have loved you'...."

"The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture. How, then, is the dying culture going to consider us? Jesus says, 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians."

"But Jesus is not here saying that our failure to love all Christians proves that we are not Christians. (...) What Jesus is saying, however, is that, if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgement that I am not a Christian. (...) Of course, the world may be making a wrong judgement because, if the man is truly a Christian...they made a mistake. (...) Here Jesus is talking about our responsibility as individuals and as groups to so love all other true Christians that the world will have no valid reason for saying that we are not Christians."

"But Jesus did give the mark that will arrest the attention of the world, even the attention of the modern man... Because every man is made in the image of God and has, therefore, aspirations for love, there is something that can be in every geographical climate - in every point of time - which cannot fail to arrest his attention. ... The love that true Christians show for each other and not just for their own party."

"The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God's holiness and God's love. ... Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holines: that is only compromise."

"What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians - what leaves bitterness that can last for twenty, thirty or forty years ... - is not the issue of doctrine or belief which caused the differences in the first place. Invariably it is the lack of love and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences. (...) It is these things - these unloving attitudes and words - that cause the stench that the world can smell in the church of Jesus Christ among those who are really true Christians."

"First, we should never come to such difference with true Christians without regret and without tears."

"The church is not to let pass what is wrong; but the Christian should suffer practical, monetary loss to show the oneness true Christians should have rather than to go to court against other true Christians, for this would destroy such an observable oneness before the watching world."

"I want to say with all my heart that as we struggle with the proper preaching of the gospel in the midst of the twentieth century, the importance of observable love must come into our message. We must not forget the final apologetic. The world has a right to look upon us as we, as true Christians, come to practical differences, and it should be able to observe that we do love each other. Our love must have a form that the world may observe, it must be seeable."

"Love - and the unity it attests to - is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father."

I know I have at times NOT worn the mark of love. I can think of a few events or moments when I have very clearly not been loving to Christians with whom I've disagreed. I've also been on the receiving end of not being loved and it really hurts - especially when it comes from other Christians. What hurts even more is realizing how damaging this is to the Gospel.

What I've learned today is that while choosing to wear marks to announce our faith is fine, it is good to make sure we are not missing THE mark that Christ gave us to wear.

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