Some historians trace evangelicals’ involvement in politics back to Koop and his mentor Francis Schaeffer, who together toured the nation urging evangelicals to become active in abortion and end-of-life issues. I once asked Schaeffer which of his dozens of books gave him most satisfaction. He thought for a moment, no doubt mentally scanning the major works of theology and culture, and settled on a 35-page booklet often overlooked, The Mark of the Christian. Schaeffer considered it so important that he added the essay as an appendix to the last book he wrote, The Great Evangelical Disaster.
Toward the end of his life, as he saw the word evangelical become synonymous with political lobbying, Schaeffer sometimes wondered what he had helped set loose. He based The Mark of the Christian on some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”Schaeffer added, “Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.” I that see as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.
As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all. The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year. Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world. Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook. May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party. As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.
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