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A while back I read a post about encouragement over on the excellent Untitled. It made me think about often I leap to conclusions about other Christians judging them for their actions, or even beliefs, without a single thought for encouragement. And it’s not just Christians who suffer my judgmental wrath. For example, when I am driving and make a mistake which causes another driver’s life to flash before their eyes (a pretty effective evangelism technique) I show myself quick and effective grace. But if another driver makes a mistake that sends me nearer heaven, my dispensing of grace is somewhat slower.

With the impending release of Rob Bell’s new book has come a tirade of judgement. Amazingly from people who haven’t even read the book. The verse that has repeatedly come to mind throughout all this is John 13:35:

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Jesus says it’s our love for each other that will convince the world. And really this makes sense. It can be seen as trendy or ‘right’ to love those outside the church (and I’m not saying we should stop) but what of our Christian family? And not just the one you worship with? What about the church that is more popular than yours? What about the people who worship in a different way to you? What about the ones who think different things about the Bible? What about the Christians who release promo videos for their next book that may or may not hint at universalism? How does your love fare then?

We can love all the outsiders we want but they will soon see through our thinly veiled facade if there is less love amongst Christians – why would they want to sign up to a belief system that shows more love to those who don’t believe it?

I’m worried that I am more bothered about being right than I am about loving my fellow Christian. The problem is that, even when I am right, unless I have love and unless that love is obvious then no one is going to want to listen. I will sound, as a great book says, like a clanging symbol.

A famous saying tells us that there is no ‘I’ in team, I say that when we get the ‘I’ in united wrong we are in danger of becoming untied.

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