Here’s a question for you to consider in your own prayer and reflection this week:
“Am I a good Christian?”
For anyone who takes their faith seriously, this should be a basic question, and I assume the answer that most of us would sincerely give is “Yes.” But let’s think about it for a while. What makes a “good Christian?”
I know what makes a good cook or a good tennis player or a good teacher. Why do I know this? I have criteria that I use to measure these things. So, for the Christian, what are the criteria that mark him or her as “good?”
I consider myself a “good” cook. However, there are times when I am preparing a meal and I go just too far with the ingredients (I never really measure), and the vodka sauce or steaks are no longer “perfect.” However, I do deem them “good enough,” and I finish. Why do I do this? Well, it's usually because I lack either the ingredients or the time to “fix” it, and I am also hungry. So, “good enough” will do.
Do you see where I am going? Are we “good” or more often “good enough?”
Today, Jesus gives us the criteria – or rather, the criterion. In John, this is His only explicit “commandment.” He says, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you also love one another.”
Love is the measure.
Why is this a “new commandment,” though? It isn’t as though the disciples didn’t love one another. It’s not that we don’t love one another and other. What is new about the command is not the act itself but the type of love Jesus is commanding. “As I have loved you…” The love of Jesus is self-giving; it is sacrificial; it is unconditional.
This is the measure of the Christian: how do we imitate Christ in our love of one another? We can certainly see this love between husbands and wives and parents and children; but what about those who wear on our nerves, or those who have hurt us? Do we love them, as Christ commands us? If not, can we really call ourselves “good” Christians – or are we merely being “good enough?”
I don’t ask this to indict anyone. God knows, I have my struggles with this too. However, as a faith community – as a Catholic Christian community – we are not served when our members harbor grudges or even hatred against each other. When members of our community throw harsh words back and forth at each other, we are not a “good” Christian community. When we exclude others because they are different, we are not “good” Christians. When we spend more time and effort in pointing out others’ faults than in correcting our own and loving others, we are not “good” Christians.
"But father," some say, "I do so well in so many other areas. This just seems to be my particular cross." If that is true, friends, then we must bear that cross as Jesus did: with love. Jesus reminds us today that we are active advertisements of His love.
The way people will know we are Christians is not in what we say (i.e., “I’m a good Christian”) or in the Rosary hanging from our rear view mirror, or the fish stuck on the bumper, or even the nice Facebook posts that circulate. The way they will know we are Christians, Jesus says, is that we have love for one another. I don’t want you to be “good enough.” We are selling ourselves short if we are. I want you to be like Jesus, who doesn’t just “ask” or “suggest” this to us. He commands us to love one another. So, pray about that this week. Am I a “good” Christian? Take time each day to consider the answer, and God’s grace will pour into your hearts.
And that’s good enough for anyone!