Jesus told His followers that they had something to prove to the watching world. What was it? That they were fully surrendered followers of Jesus!
How did they prove this 2,000 years ago? Not by wearing a Christian toga T-shirt or by having some religious slogan on the bumper sticker on their chariot. Jesus called them to higher level of group identity and commitment that goes way beyond throwing on their latest toga tee. They proved they were followers of Jesus before a watching—and often hostile—world through the sacrificial love they had for each other.
By This All Men Will Know
Now don’t get me wrong. Christian T-shirts can be great conversation starters. Not to mention the fact that I own several myself and wear them proudly. (Plus, here at Dare 2 Share, we actually sell Christian tees!) But it takes more than a T-shirt to demonstrate our shared commitment to Christ. It takes love—a love that comes from and is empowered by God Himself.
Here’s how Jesus put it John 13:34-35, setting the bar incredibly high for us:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
There’s something powerful, almost mystical, about the way a group of Christians who are empowered by the Spirit of God care about each other. Their sacrificial service, attitude of respect and the true affection that they have for each other can be a huge influence on the watching world.
The Apostle Paul, who you get the definite impression was not exactly a touchy-feely kind of guy, given his penchant for stoning people before he became a Christ follower, explains it like this:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:1-4).
A God-Sized Cause
What does all this have to do with your youth group and evangelism?
As leaders of youth, of course we seek to lead the way in helping our teenagers be part of an open, caring atmosphere at youth group. But God’s call is bigger than our youth groups. And I believe it specifically applies to our students as they live out their faith on their school campuses. It’s easy for teenagers to hunker down in their cliques and become self-centered, judgmental and closed to those who aren’t quite like them.
That’s why it’s part of our job to open their eyes and launch them toward a walk with Jesus that is bigger and broader than their own little youth group world. We must help them see that they are called into the bigger kingdom of God and the God-sized Cause of Christ—to make disciples who make disciples in their daily lives. Wherever God has placed them: school, sports, band, drama, work, and so on.
This week, challenge your students to take one concrete step toward cultivating deeper friendships at their school with other Christians. Prompt them to meet together to pray and encourage each other. Challenge them to take a risk and do something demonstrable that will let others see their Christian love for one another. Be creative. For I believe that outwardly displaying this kind of Christian love for one another is actually a piece of our God-given evangelism gear.
As teens begin to build webs of relationships across youth groups in your area, not only will their love for one another provide a source of strength and encouragement for them, it will open doors for the gospel message. It will make an impact on the nonbelievers in their midst in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.
An impact that goes way beyond pulling on a Christian toga tee when they roll out of bed in the morning.