As I continue to work my way through 1 John I am repeatedly struck by the way John weaves together several themes, yet seems to keep a single idea in focus. John writes to help the reader understand how we may know God – that we may know God. Yet throughout the letter he calls us to holiness and love.
At the same time I am working through 1 John, the leaders of our church are working through a process to discern the identity, mission, and vision for Walnut Hill Church. Having gone through this process with other churches I realize that most of what we come up with will be attributes that are shared by many faithful churches, though there are also certainly things that are unique to us. These unique items are those gifts and passions God has granted to this church – as he does to all churches. It is our God-given personality.
In my mind these two things are converging: Our vision & mission, and John’s words to Christ’s church. And thinking about them together reminded me about a brief work by Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian. This work challenged my thinking a few years ago, and to some degree, I hope, it has shaped me personally, and therefore has shaped my ministry.
Schaeffer suggests that Christians have always looked for ways to distinguish themselves, by symbols and marks. However there is one mark that has persevered through all generations as the genuine mark of Christianity, and therefore the Church: Love. Schaeffer points out that Christ ordained this to be an enduring and authoritative mark. He asserts that Christ has made this mark so reflective that the absence of it gives the world the right to judge that someone is not a Christian! By extension then, the world would have the right to judge that a church is not truly Christian if Love is not pervasive.
Love for one another is pervasive at Walnut Hill. What we are trying to discover, however, is how we might more openly express that love to the community, and world, around us. Such expression is not absent, but we want to be more deliberate.
I’ve re-read The Mark of the Christian a couple times this week. And now I’ve decided to publish it in a multi-part series over the next few weeks. It is a work worth considering, and any attempt I make to summarize would be woefully inadequate.