I was at the grocery store in Hutchinson last week, picking up a few essentials to stock our pantry up for the duration of the sickness that’s still hanging on at my house. So there I was in the pasta aisle, debating the merits of one brand of whole wheat spaghetti versus another, and this lady comes up to me.
“Hey!” she says.
I don’t know this girl. She’s a complete stranger, though generally I’ve found that people in Hutchinson are pretty friendly.
“I love your Doctor Who shirt!”
And that’s when I remembered what I was wearing. My brother bought me this awesome Doctor Who shirt, and I love it. I wear it all the time.
This complete stranger saw it and immediately identified me as a fan, which I am. So she had no second thoughts about commenting on it and then going on to tell me about a web site where you can find all sorts of cool shirts (I fully intend to check it out).
The Doctor Who fandom is more of a culture than anything else. This encounter with a random stranger makes me smile because I’ve done the same thing before, whenever I see others wearing Doctor Who hats or scarves. It’s fun to spot other Whovians because it means I’m part of a really geeky family, one that understands why bananas are good and bow ties are cool.
But can you really tell all that by what somebody’s wearing? Can you really find common ground with someone just because they’re wearing a silly shirt or a funny hat? With Doctor Who or other fandoms, generally, yes, it’s that easy. But it’s not just fictional universes where this happens either.
Today’s verses are John 13:34-35.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
This is Jesus talking to his disciples at the Last Supper, mere hours before He would be arrested, sentenced at a show trial, and crucified unjustly.
The commandment that Jesus is talking about here is one of the most difficult to keep in all the Bible: Love each other. Not tolerate each other. Not put up with each other. Love each other.
And note that Jesus isn’t talking about loving our enemies here. He’s not talking about loving others who don’t believe. No, He’s talking to a room full of His disciples. Love each other.
In my experience, the hardest people to truly love have been other Christians. Why? Well, there are a host of reasons, but I think a lot of it is that we expect so much from other believers that when they screw up, we think withholding our love will teach them a lesson. But Jesus never says it’s our job to punish another Christian because they can’t be perfect. It’s our job to love regardless.
Granted, love looks different from person to person. In some instances, love means being there for someone. In other instances, love means stepping back. But the motivation always remains the same.
This is so important because it’s the only way the world can identify us as Christians. It has nothing to do with whether or not you go to church. It has nothing to do with how you dress or how you speak. It has nothing to do with whether you’ve been sprinkled or dunked. Do you want to be identified as a Christ-follower? Love each other.
A Christian who loves without hesitation is as obvious to the world as a TARDIS-blue t-shirt to Doctor Who fan. Maybe the world can’t put a name to what you are, but they will know you’re different. You’ll be a shining light on a hill that nobody can ignore, even if they try.
And when you meet someone who loves others the same way you do, immediately you’ll have common ground. It’s happened to me before. I can know nothing about the person I’m sitting next to, but in watching them love other people, I instantly find something to talk about. Sure, I’m shy, but I love to talk about Jesus and what He’s doing in the world and in my life.
So make the choice to love people, especially other Christians. It changes you, and it changes the way others see you.