Thursday, September 08, 2005

Are you a student of the Shepherd?

The Good Shepherd taught his flock, his students (talmidim), that their one identifying mark would be their love one for another (see John 13:34-35). This distinguishing characteristic is noted several times in the ancient text. For example, take the account of Luke in Acts 11:26-30. The students of the Good Shepherd are first identified as Christianos, Greek for followers of Christos, the annointed One. After a great famine strikes the Roman Empire during Claudius' reign, these Christianos "decided to provide help for [their] brothers." Out of love, they shared what they had with those who had none, so that no one perished.

We also see this theme repeated in 1 John 3-4. Here is an excerpt from the Good News about the Shepherd:

This is the message you heard from the beginning:
We should love one another...We know that we
have passed from death to life, because we love
our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains
in death...If anyone has material possessions and
sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,
how can the love of God be in him?...Whoever
loves God must also love his brother.

The truth of these passages hit home with me as I watch endless suffering on the cable news networks. This month it is the victims of Katrina, without homes, power, food and water, and some without their loved ones. How do we show these poor victims the love of God? Do those of us who have plenty give willingly to those who are without? Can our lives be inconvenienced one iota for those whose entire lives have been disrupted?

I am grateful to see the outpouring of compassion and generosity from around the country. Many church groups and parachurch organizations are stepping up to the plate. But that doesn't remove the personal responsibility from each one of us. As students of the Good Shepherd, we are commanded to put our actions where our mouths are. John says it this way, "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

How will anyone know that you are a Christos follower, a student of the Good Shepherd? What are your distinguishing characteristics? Do your actions speak louder than your words?

Let's be true to our word and help our brothers in need.

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