Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7-8, ESV
There is no shortage when it comes to the tests Christians have sought to impose on one another throughout church history. It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to New Testament times. People love to set up what Paul calls “dividing walls.” At times, the test has been one of legalistic precision. At other times, it has been doctrinal or racial or political or economic or cultural tests that were in favor. Whatever the criteria, the outcome is the same–if you’re not like me in this certain way, then you aren’t with me (and if you aren’t with me, then you aren’t with Jesus).
In 1 John 4, John proposes a better test than all the ones we’re tempted to use. The question is not whether or not someone conforms to what I or you or anyone else thinks is essential. It’s whether or not we’re being conformed to who God is, and as John says it so plainly, God is love. So, John says, if you know God, then you will love others, but if you don’t love others, then you don’t know God. Love is the test of an authentic relationship with God. Love is what casts away the fear of judgment and condemnation.
Unlike many of the tests we’ve found useful for determining the authenticity of someone’s faith, love isn’t about the fear of being left out but the assurance and confidence that we have eternal life in Christ. Do you believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? Do you actively love others because God has first loved you? The test isn’t whether I’m like you or you’re like me. The test is whether we’re trusting in Jesus and becoming like Him, the Son of God through whom God’s love was made visible.
What are your favorite tests for deciding if someone is authentically Christian? Would love be a better test?