They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll recognize the title from an old folk hymn; we sang it repeatedly at Folk Mass in the 70’s and early 80’s.  While the song itself is no longer popular, the message behind it is timeless.

I was contacted to see an inpatient at one of our busiest hospitals.  Walking through a hospital  is an interesting study in the human condition.  Everyone is pre-occupied. Everyone has somewhere urgent to go.  Staff hurriedly go about doing important work.  Most of the other people look like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.  There’s not much eye contact and even less smiling.  A busy hospital corridor is a perfect example of how alone we can be in a crowd.  It’s the same on busy streets, packed elevators,  the line at the grocery store, even in our own homes.

crowd of people

Yet, in these overflowing but isolating places, we are called to spread the Gospel in word and deed; not by spouting off Bible verses at unsuspecting strangers – does anyone ever listen to the guy on the street corner preaching about the end of the world? – but by a kind word, a gentle smile and perhaps Biblical words of encouragement that flow from there.  It’s that simple.

Letting someone ahead of us in traffic or in line speaks volumes.  So does catching the eye of a worried looking stranger and giving them a smile.  Hold the door open.   Give up a seat on the bus or subway.  Sit down and share a meal and a good conversation with your family.  Have a chat with someone in the long line at the coffee shop.  Better yet, take the money that would have been spent at the coffee shop and donate it to a charity.  “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love,” Mother Teresa said; and the office, the mall, and most importantly, the home, are the best places to start.

It takes a leap of faith to reach out to people we don’t know and those we think we do know.  We could be rejected or greeted with hostility.  Or worse.  But if we all think that way, then kindness will die and we will live in a world of forgotten, lonely, unhappy, hopeless people.   In any gesture of Christian charity, one thing is necessary:  we need to look at and see our neighbour.  That means we have to stop isolating ourselves from them.  We have to stop focusing on our problems and pre-occupations and look up and out at the world.

Being a Christian involves risk.  Sharing the Gospel and being a person for others demands selflessness.  It takes courage that only comes with faith and that only comes with unceasing prayer and a Sacramental life.  The rewards, for others and for ourselves, are immeasurable.  So, let our Christian love shine and that old folk hymn will keep on playing…………..

Deo Gratias

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28 Responses to They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

  1. SaintlySages says:

    More often than not, when we let someone go ahead of us in a cue, the pleasantness which follows from their gratitude more than compensates for our inconvenience. Kindness yields an abundant harvest. Have a great weekend!

  2. juanrbalboa says:

    I remember this song! I most recently sang it in a Newman Center (a nod to your pages quoting Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman). One thing that always puzzled me: I see people of other faiths who also do things with love and charity. They show compassion. So I wonder: how does our love distinguish us as Catholics? I think the answer lies in John 13:34-35: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I understand this to refer to that the quality and completeness of our love for one another. But then I see people of other faiths who seem to give completely of themselves for love of another. Is the distinction revealed in John 13:15: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do”?
    I am hoping you can answer this for me: if it is true that “they will know we are Christian by our love,” what is it about our love that should distinguish us from others?
    I love your quote of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. I wanted to share a small video I made focusing on that quote: I hope you enjoy it.
    Thanks for your post. It is very challenging.

    • Thanks for your comment, Juan. It seems to me that all Christians, whether we are Catholic or not, are called to the same commandment of loving our neighbour as ourself; therefore, an act of charity by a Catholic shouldn’t be any different than an act of charity by a Christian of another denomination.

      • juanrbalboa says:

        Thanks for your reply. And I agree with your comment, but I am curious how someone can know we are Christian by OUR love? What is it about OUR love that an outside observer can look at and say, “so THAT’S what it means to be Christian”? What is it about OUR love that distinguishes us from loving Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.?
        I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I believe your blog reveals that you are really in touch with our faith and I am hoping you might shed some light on this question.

      • Juan, I don’t know very much about the non-Christian religions you mentioned so I can’t really compare; however, I can say that Christian love is based on the love Christ showed us which is self-sacrificing – loving our neighbour for their sake and not for any personal gain on our part; putting the other person first. That’s about all I can tell you. If you really want to know more, I suggest you talk to a priest/spiritual director about it.

  3. catherine says:

    At mass, it is important to connect authentically when sharing the sign of peace. Most people do not. As a black person, I can tell you that I sometimes feel rejected by my fellow catholics (of all races, other than black) during this part of the mass.

    Terry, both you and your husband greeted me with a sense of warmth and a .spirit of friendship at a mass I attended in January. I stumbled upon your blog the very next day and I’ve been inspired by your messages ever since.

    Thank you for your teaching me about faith, hope and love.

    • Hello Catherine, thanks so much for your comment and your kind words. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I don’t recall who you are. If we are at the same Mass again, please say hello and kick-start my stalled memory.

      • catherine says:

        Terry, I should have mentioned that we have never spoken. The only communication (other than this blog) was through the kindess and warmth you extended as we exchanged the sign of peace. When I found your blog the next day, I knew that you were the person I ‘met’ at St. Mary Immaculate. I will be sure to say hello the next time I see you at Mass.

  4. Oh man, there’s something I know I have to do but been putting off. Your post just pushed me in the right (but difficult) direction.

  5. I try to live this message every day. I agree that even the smallest gesture can have a huge impact on a total stranger. I know this because my day has been brightened by an act of kindness from a stranger.

    Our Priest always talks about how people should wonder what we have, what is different about us, because we act differently. Christ’s love should show through us, and we should share it.

    Great post!

  6. Great post! I remember this song and in fact have sung it fairly recently in Mass! Thanks for an inspiring post reminding us of our call and for putting a pleasant song in my head for the day 🙂

  7. Biltrix says:

    I believe it was Mother Teresa who said, “You are the only Gospel some people will ever read.” If she did not say it, it still rings true. If we are true to the name of Christ, we must bear his light to others around us in the simple acts of Charity we do, be it a smile or a hello, or perhaps something greater if the occasion calls for it. Thanks for the reminder! I actually needed this one today.

  8. lilyboat says:

    Great message as always! Amazing how a simple smile and a hello can open the door to a new friendship!

  9. Great post. Over the last year, I have tried to let others go first. I have noticed how others recognize the action. It is an easy way to give a bit of kindness to others and to acknowledge their worth.

  10. Great reminder, Terry!

  11. rightbill says:

    Reblogged this on The Catholic Me… and commented:
    “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St.Francis of Assisi

  12. Me says:

    🙂 That is my favorite hymn! I never hear it anymore, but grew up singing it in the church I went to in my youth, long before my conversion. Back then it was RLDS and is now Community of Christ.

    Agreed, all Chrisitians are called to love one another.

  13. A lovely post. And for what it’s worth, we still sing that song quite often in my old parish in Oxford (and it’s still printed in our missalettes). I’ve never gotten the sense that it was stale or outdated.

  14. genericmum says:

    I love this hymn, too – it really says it all about how we are to live…Through Christ, we are to have a supernatural love that extends beyond our friends and family to strangers, the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, and also to our enemies.
    As always, thank-you, Terry.

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