Back in 2007 I had the privilege of visiting Israel and touring the spiritual headquarters of Christianity. While there, I had the experience of being baptized in the Jordan river…the same river that John the Baptist baptized people. And during those days, it was at this very place that he asked a simple yet profound question to those coming to be baptized.
Luke chapter 3 records the event. As the crowds came to be baptized by John, he asks a question that almost all of us have asked ourselves concerning a person. He asks them to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, what can I see from your life that proves you have truly repented and turned to God?”
The crowd didn’t know how to respond, so they asked John what they should do. John’s answers are probably surprising…he tells them to share clothes and food with those who do not have, tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money, and soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. What in the world does any of these things have to do with proving your salvation?
There are two mainstreams that run through John’s answers, but we’ll just focus on one of them. Notice that all of his answers have to do with how we treat people. So often we highlight many other areas as the external proof of our faith, but John points out that a key sign is how we treat others.
This may come as a slight surprise to many of you because traditions have taught us so many things to focus on. Things such as church attendance, tithing, spiritual gifts, attire, etc. I’m not reducing the importance of any of those things…they all have their appropriate place. But they all become a ‘resounding gong or a clanging symbol’ if we don’t treat others with love (1 Corinthians 13).
The writer of First Corinthians describes people with outward works but no inner depth. You may have heard the saying that you can be ‘a mile wide but only an inch deep’. Those are the kind of people that Paul is describing in the beginning of chapter 13…those that have great gifts that people like to see but do not know how to love others properly.
So, what does all of this mean for us today? It means that we should treat others with the love of Christ, and strive to have strong, healthy, and fruitful relationships. This is a significant mark of a mature and authentic relationship with God.
We should start with the relationships closest to us. Husbands and wives must love and treat each other well and continue to work on improving their relationship. It’s disappointing that the familiarity with our spouses cause us to treat them with less love and respect than we treat others.
Do an honest self-examination of how you treat others, remember John’s criteria, and then make the change you need to reflect an authentic relationship with God.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and be blessed!