How is love to others in the church shown? Certainly there are many, varied expressions of it, such as showing hospitality, speaking encouraging words, or visiting a brother or sister when they are ill or suffering. Yet in the church where the Lord Jesus Christ is head of the body, what are the primary, objective, essential characteristics of this love? They are those actions that most represent who Christ is and what He has done for us.
In the book Hitting the Marks: Restoring the Essential Identity of the Church, I present the historic, Reformed understanding that the three key identification marks of a true church are the faithful preaching of God’s Word, the right administration of the sacraments, and the proper exercise of discipline. In response, I am often asked the question above. Why is love not among the marks of the church? After all, Jesus Himself said,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
With such a clear indication by the Lord that love identifies us as His followers, then how can it not be included as a mark of the church?