Love as the Litmus Test

Everyone has their own way of assessing things. We judge all manner of things by first impression, speech, attitudes, dress, facial expression and so on. So how does God want us to be evaluated?

God’s Litmus Test

Jesus Christ explained that there is a litmus test by which we would be evaluated. That process was one that was important to God and so it was pointed out to us, along with a command that we perform in a way that gives us a good litmus test rating.

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

Did you notice the words “By This”? People will know you are Jesus’ disciple by a particular litmus test. It’s not the smile on your dial, your Bible knowledge or the frequency with which you go to church. The litmus test is whether you love others or not.

A Commanded Lifestyle

There are many optional things in the Christian life. Your diet, exercise regime, domestic comforts, career and much more are completely at your discretion. But there is one thing that is commanded of you. You are commanded to love other Christians.

Now that should not be a surprise, even if it is not something you see many Christians do. Remember that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). And this command which was identified by Christ was first given under Moses.

“You are not to avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you will love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18

What Does Love Look Like?

Have you ever wondered what “love” looks like? It is supposed to be visible. That’s how it can function as our litmus test. If love was invisible then no-one would know whether we had love for one another or not. Yet it is the very visibility of our love for one another that allows people to know that we are Christ’s disciples. Got it? So love must look like something. It is not invisible.

Love Defined

The best working definition for love that I have ever heard is where we “want what is best for the other person, despite the personal cost to ourselves”.

By that definition we can see that love is completely self-less. So our love can be seen by the selfless things we do. When we put other people ahead of ourselves and help others out even though it messes things up for us, we are demonstrating something that others know is not in their life.

So if love has to look like anything at all it should look like selflessness. When we devour other people, indulge our anger and self-will, are intolerant, prejudiced, reactive or closed, we demonstrate something other than love.

Test Yourself

It is not always easy to properly observe ourselves, because we apply many filters to what we do and excuse things in ourselves we don’t excuse in others. However, despite the difficulties, we are wise to try to get a grip on ourselves and to make some kind of assessment about who and what we are.

So try testing yourself. Use the litmus paper on the acidic state of your own heart.

Take a few moments to write down ten examples of your selflessness, patience, kindness, generosity, tolerance, self-restraint and other practical expressions of love that you have shown in the past week. If you come up with more than ten items of substance then that’s a positive sign. If you can’t think of any then you need to pay particular attention to that.

God is Watching

Oh, and by the way, whether you test yourself or not, God is weighing everything you do and say. He is watching and ready to bless you if you fulfil His will. So, don’t take the subject too lightly. A good litmus test every now and then is worth the effort.

Blood is Thicker Than Water

People are bound together by many things. Family ties are an important and valuable link between people. The saying goes that ‘blood is thicker than water’. This is often quoted when someone acts in a nepotistic fashion, giving advantage and favour to a family member at the expense of others who should have been considered.

But the blood bond is not the only bond, and at times it is not a good bond. King Solomon advised that a near neighbour is better help than a brother who lives a long way off.

Neighbourly support is a sweet benefit for those who enjoy it. My 99 year old neighbour, Howard Perkins, at home caring for his 92 year old wife, Marion, gets plenty of support from others in the street. Patricia drives him to the local market so he can do his shopping. Kalliope calls around regularly to cut Marion’s hair. And so it goes. Up until just a few years ago Howard was cutting the lawn of an elderly lady who is just a little older than he. She is now in a nursing home and will beat him to the ‘century’.

Then there are the networks of church and social groups. These provide long-term friendships and support bases for people. Social research during the great depression found that those who survived unemployment and loss the best were those who had a strong family network and who were well connected into a church.

Then again, there are the less obvious connections of such things as secret societies. In these, people make vows to others and are bound to fulfill them. The connection may be ideological, such as we see with religious fanaticism, or it may be entered into from some lure of privilege, such as may attract some to the Masonic societies.

Where these secret connections exist they are often called upon by covert signals, such as handshakes, stance postures, and so on. A man in the docks can signal to the jury by assuming a prescribed posture. Anyone in the jury who is a fellow Mason is thus obligated to rescue the defendant, even if he is obviously guilty.

Now, having given than elaborate introduction, here is my point.

Blood is thicker than water and secret alliances may hold greater sway, but the Fear of God is thicker yet again!

When a person acts in the fear of God they are willing to uphold justice and righteous standards for all. They will not give leniency to their family, as that would mock God. They will not give special consideration to their neighbours, as that will rob someone else of justice. They will not let off an offender because of secret vows made to the secret society.

The answer to any request for such treatment should be “No, you have violated a higher moral ethic than my secret commitments with invocations and vows. My responsibility to the living God is of a higher rank than the promises of my lips, my subscriptions to secret collusions and vows, my care for my family or the members of my society.

Whenever the fear of God is not the ‘thickest’ thing in our life, we end up compromised and morally damaged. I challenge you to be in thick with God. Let the cord that binds you to Him be the thickest of them all.