When I was a child, my family attended a Presbyterian church for several years. This was the place where I received my first Bible (a Good News Bible that I still cherish), and my teacher, Hessie Smith, wrote me a note and told me to put it in my Bible at Matthew 6:33 (it’s still there). Her lesson on John the Baptist was so descriptive that for a week I couldn’t stop thinking about how disgusting it must be to eat locusts with wild honey.
At the end of every Sunday service, we would hold hands with the people seated to our left and to our right, until every person in the church was connected. Then we would sing They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
I heard this message over and over again, Sunday after Sunday, my hand grasped by my mom or dad, or sometimes by a stranger, maybe even by one of my brothers on a rare occasion! Even as a child I knew the message rang with idealism but called us to something real. And I wondered how we were doing, and if we were failing. Because it was so obvious – you didn’t have to read every word of that Good News Bible to know it – you didn’t have to be a grown-up to know it – it was so obvious that the song should be true. But was it?
Jesus said, “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It’s so easy to say or to sing. Much harder to do.
The Church is holy – we profess this – but it is not because she is perfect. It is because she is set apart. Set apart to do one task, to do it better than anyone else because she has had the perfect example. She is one with the Perfect Example.
The Church was created to love. This is the one thing that lies beneath, behind and beyond every aspect of her existence, from liturgy to evangelization. If it doesn’t, then we have failed before we have even begun.
Pope Francis said, "I desire a happy church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies, caresses. Dream of this church, believe in it, innovate it with freedom."
I see this church, and yet I dream of it. I have seen that loving face, and yet I yearn for it. I have been accompanied, and yet I dream of accompaniment. Let us innovate – transform – with love, and not fail each other. Let us innovate with every step, breath, word and song. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.