Will Others Know We Are Christians By Our Love?

Will Others Know We Are Christians By Our Love? May 2, 2024

Lighthouse in a storm.
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Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

Anne Lamott


As a church pianist, I prepare music each week for the Sunday service. This week as I thumbed through the hymnal to find a piece to arrange, a particular song caught my eye. It is a piece that is in a minor (sad sounding) key. I had not heard it sung in quite some time. The name of the song? “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love.” I decided to play that song for a few minutes. 

Are We One in the Spirit?

The words leapt off the page to me. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. They’ll Know we are Christians by our love. We will work with each other. We will work side by side. We will let people know that God is in our land. We’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride. Those were some of the verses of the song. 

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Would People Know We are Christians by our Love?

When we turn on the news these days, it seems that this concept is lost at the moment, does it not? At that moment, I decided to see when this hymn was written and the history behind it. The hymn was written in one day by a man named Peter R. Scholtes. He was a Catholic priest, musician, composer, teacher, community organizer and therapist. That was just some of his talents. 

A Grand Piano
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Why Did He Write the Song?

He wrote the song in 1966 for a youth choir that was in South Chicago. He searched for a tune that would minister during a series of ecumenical and interracial events. He was an advocate during the Chicago Civil Rights movement. His words were for a time when the US was very divided much like today. What are we to do when we are faced with this set of similar circumstances? Protests are raging all over the country, people are arguing mercilessly and it seems that we are irretrievably broken. What must we do? We must do just as this song says, let people know that we are Christians by our love. 

How Do We Show Love?

First, we show love by checking our motivations and attitude. I don’t know about you, but I have found that when I watch the news or scroll through social media I get a little angry. I shake my head, I gasp, I think, “What is wrong with this world?!” These are all natural reactions to the chaos. I found that this reaction was poisoning my attitude and Christian walk. At that moment a decision was made. I am going to pray for our world, consume less news and try to show someone love each day. 

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Much like Scholtes time, our society is in a bit of upheaval. This calls for some great acts of love and prayer. The author of the tune took the words of Jesus written in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We must show our love in the face of upheaval. It is going to be a hard, yet necessary task. We must pray for those who are sowing division. We must also spread the love and joy that Scholtes shared through his timely song. 

Let Us Aim to Share the Words of the Song

Scholtes eventually left the priesthood and married. He lived a full life, authoring books and spreading love to all around him. He died in 2009. As I read his life story, he was known to open his home and heart to many people from all over the world. He volunteered at a local rehab program, wrote books and wished every person to have joy in their work. At the end of each prayer he made, he uttered the words, “And let there be peace in the world.” Amen Mr. Scholtes. Let us be more like him. Let people know we are Christians by our love.

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