On a visit to the optometrist the other day, I watched the doctor with fascination as she tested my three children. I was intrigued by her gadgets and contraptions, had great respect for her knowledge, and appreciated her thorough communication with me. She further captured my curiosity when she examined my youngest child and remarked “I have no doubt these kids have the same daddy.”
This doctor has never seen my husband. She hasn't looked in his eyes or even seen his face. And although our children share similar features with their dad, this ophthalmology- uneducated mom doesn't think my kids have their father’s eyes. My husband’s are bright blue and captivating while the kids’ eyes are hazel and cute. The youngest is far-sighted, the middle child has 20/15, and the oldest is near-sighted. However, with the right amount of examination, a trained doctor can see what my naked eyes can’t--that the size and shape of the children’s optic nerve are remarkably similar. The making of their optic nerves reveal that those three children were made in the likeness of one dad.
This experience made me wish it was just as easy to tell who the children of God are. Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone could look at me for less than 60 seconds and say “I know who Tonya’s Father is.”? If someone were to examine me, he or she might catch me in the few moments of anger I have toward the people I love most. One might find me frustrated rather than free, worried rather than worshipping rightly, discouraged rather than disciplined. One might catch me in a moment of gossip, with a condescending tone, or impatient spirit. There are times when my heavenly Father may not be as obvious in my life as I want Him to be.
And so it is with the many who call themselves “Christians”. Believers and unbelievers alike find it hard to figure out who the authentic followers of Jesus are, because the walk doesn’t always match the talk. However, the Bible makes a clear distinction between the “saved” and “unsaved” in 1 John 3:10:
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Note the criteria mentioned in John 3 for true followers of God:1) someone who practices righteousness
This means that Christians will sin from time to time, but they do not PRACTICE sinning. A believer may have a moment or season of anger, lust, pride, envy, jealousy, etc, but this does not characterize a child of God. Upon examination of one’s life as a whole, one should be able to see the sinful habits being replaced with godly ones.
2) someone who loves his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ
This means it is contradictory to love Jesus and detest His people. A believer chooses to forgive their church member for an offense rather than remain bitter against them. Followers of Jesus lovingly correct a church leader that they feel is wrong rather that criticize or condemn him/her. Christians are more concerned with their brothers and sister’s walk with the Lord than the way in which s/he conducts matters that are not sinful. Disciples dispel fellow believers’ drama rather than create drama or run away from people’s pain. God’s children choose to encourage, uplift, teach, serve, and help fellow brothers and sisters rather than isolate themselves from the Church.
Did you notice what was not in this list? The Bible doesn’t say a person’s correct theology will ensure his eternal security. 1 John 3 doesn’t mention how often Christians should read their Bible, go to church, how many charities they should be involved in, how adept their evangelism skills are, or EVEN how to love unbelievers. These are all good things, but are not evidence of the children of God. Those who are trained by Scripture can recognize the similarities in God’s children much like the optometrist could infer the likeness my kids have with each other.
In my own life, I can “see” God’s heart when I’m with my parents and in-laws who are actively involved in two opposing political parties—the love, care, and respect they have for each other is bigger than their political differences. I recognize God’s children when at play-dates with my friends who home-school, public school and private school—we can enjoy and learn from each other even though we have different educational philosophies. I experienced the beauty of God’s children when I taught a bible study consisting of students from 7 different demoninations—they could discuss Scripture respectfully despite their differing interpretations of it. And every Sunday I witness my church enjoy each other’s presence regardless of the color or economic status of specific members.
Who are the real Christians? We look different from each other. We have diverse styles. We have various gifts, strengths, skill-sets, weaknesses, struggles, and personalities. Some of us are near-sighted at times when others see clearly. We have different perspectives; we don’t always “see” life the same way, but we worship the same God. We are made in His image—and that is most evident when we practice His ways and genuinely love His people.