What is the hallmark of a Christian? How do we know, when we look at someone, that we are looking at a Christian? What defining qualities must he have? What are the unmistakable characteristics that he should possess?

Recently I overheard a conversation between two young ladies. They were discussing the qualities they were looking for in a man and on their list were the following items;

1. Must be a Christian – This is great, isn’t it? Especially when starting a family. Because Paul does tell us,

“Do not be unequally bound together with unbelievers [do not make mismatched alliances with them, inconsistent with your faith].” 2 Corinthians 6:14 [AMP]

While it is not impossible for us to build a family with someone who doesn’t share our faith in Christ, it does make support during the tough times difficult, because both members in the marriage will be looking to different things for solace and solutions. And this is not even taking into account what values will be imbued into their children. So to make life easier, let’s just marry those who share the same faith.

2. Must be serving in Church – This is great too. After all, we are blessed so that we can bless. I mean, what’s the point of being blessed with gifts if we don’t use them? Indeed, Paul was right when he said,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Then their list got longer. Must be a leader, must head or be next in line to head a cell group. Must be aspiring to leadership in the church. Must pray five times a day. Must read the Bible. Must have memorized 3 books verbatim by the time they got married. And so on.

As I sat there listening, this reminder from Jesus came to mind.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” Matthew 6:1 [MSG]

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?” Matthew 6:5 [MSG]

It’s true, isn’t it? How many of us, before we were saved, were approached by ‘Christians’ carrying huge Bibles and wearing ornate diamond-encrusted crosses around their necks? While there is nothing essentially wrong with that, how many of us were drawn to them and thought to ourselves, ‘yes, that’s the kind of Christian I really aspire to be’? We don’t, do we? Instead, we get put off by such shows.

You know, if you think about it, being a Christian is like very much like being a part of the uniformed services. Though you are member of the service, you can still choose to walk the streets in your civvies and be a nondescript part of the backdrop. You can choose to keep your relationship with our Father quiet, private and personal. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, if you decide that you want to walk the streets in your uniform, if you decide that you want to wear your faith on your sleeve and around your neck, then you really need to watch the image that you choose to portray, don’t you? Because now, you are God’s representative. And like it or not, others will judge our Father by your actions. You don’t want to give Him a bad name now, do you?

So how then should we act in public? What is God’s idea of a good representative?

For starters, with regards to public actions, Jesus has this to say.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6 [MSG]

Keep it quiet, blend in, don’t cause a scene. There’s no need to put on a Broadway musical every time you decide you want to publicize the fact that you are a Christian. God wants a private and intimate relationship with you. And that is why Jesus says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

He doesn’t say, ‘take a queue number and wait in line’, does He? He says He will come in and dine with ‘him’ and ‘he’ with Me. Personal and intimate, that’s the way God likes it.

Then what about our character? What qualities should we exhibit? By what should our discipleship be known?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

The command is to love, the hallmark is love.

‘By this’, says Jesus, will man know you are my disciples. By what? ‘If you have love for one another’. This is how God wants us to set ourselves apart from the crowd. This is how God wants others to be able to identify us as being one of His. And what kind of love should we have?

“…that you love one another; as I have loved you,…” John 13:34

Now, I’m not going to sugar coat this one for you; this is a tough commandment. You see, when Jesus said this, He had just finished washing His disciples feet. And this was not some random act done at some random time, for we are told that He decided to wash His disciples feet

“…when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1

Here He was, about to suffer and die for this lot of sinners who had no idea of just what was coming. They were fishermen and laborers, most of them, and would probably never be able to fully comprehend the gravity of what Jesus was about to do for them. And notice what was going through His mind when Jesus decided to wash His disciple’s feet?

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:3-5
He knew that the Father has given all things into His hands and that He was going back to God. Right at that point in time, Jesus knew that He was indeed, as Jack from Titanic said, ‘King of the world’.

But instead of taking the time to drum it into their heads the severity of that which He was about to do, He decided to wash their feet. He decided to set the example, to put His money where His mouth is and show just what He meant when He said

“…whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave” Matthew 20:26-27

For indeed, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

So by what love are we to love one another? By the same self-sacrificial love with which Jesus loves us, the same love that made Him go to the cross for us; for when He did,

“Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.” Isaiah 53:4-5 [AMP]

With that same love, we are to love one another; and by that same love are we to be identified to be His disciples. Do you think you are up to the task?

You know, our Father hates show-offs. That is why, whenever it comes to matters of public display, He sets extremely high standards. You see, even for Himself, when He says,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

He uses the word ‘Ahavah’, the Hebrew word for love that encapsulates every and all kinds of love; the love between a husband and wife; deep care and concern; even the love between parent and child. It can mean ‘love’, and it can also mean ‘like’. It can be used literally, and it can even be used to discuss love conceptually. When it comes to loving Him, when it comes to the personal relationship with Him, He allows us to come to Him on our terms, in ways that we can understand, because all He really wants is for our love, our ahavah to be sincere, genuine, from our heart.

But if we want to show-off, if we want to ‘represent’; then the ball game changes. For those who want to be publicly identified as His, then love in the manner that Jesus loved, is now the hallmark; the vagueness of ahavah is no longer good enough.

So then, should we stop living a life of discipleship? Of course not. By no means. We should always continue walking in His ways and by His side. But the important thing to remember, as we are going on our way, is that our walk with Him is not meant to be a public display of our faith. We are not called to be walking billboards. We are called to, first and foremost, have an intimate relationship with Him, and that should be our focus.

It doesn’t matter if or not you are evangelizing. It doesn’t matter if or not you are making a conscious effort to be publicly associated with Him. While I’m not asking you to deny Him, we need to realize that what He really wants is that close and intimate relationship with us.

And when that is in place, all the rest, all these things, all the evangelism and being identified as one of His, He will make fall in place in due time.

Beloved child of God, the Christian is not the one who constantly gives to God, but the one who constantly receives from God. And though service is part and parcel of the Christian life, it is the fruit of a close walk with Him, and not a labored chore.

So let us focus instead on our personal and intimate relationship with our Father and let The Vine work in us to bear the fruits of His pleasure.

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