The Cathedral of St. Philip - Atlanta, GA

Will They Know We are Christians by Our Love?

An article for the Cathedral Times
by Keith Dumke, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries
July 30, 2023

Ten years ago, as I exited a local retailer, a woman stopped me because she noticed the t-shirt I was wearing. The shirt was one of the many Christian t-shirts that I have from years of attending youth retreats, mission trips, pilgrimages, and events. She said: “Thanks, I really needed to see the message on your shirt today. It reminds me that love wins, and that God is good. See, you were out here witnessing today, and you didn’t even realize it!” I suppose that made me an evangelist unaware!

I recall thanking her for her kind words and being happy that I had impacted her day in a good way. And I recall being proud that I was a Christian, without feeling the need to explain or justify this part of my life.

I sometimes fear that in the same circumstance, I may react differently today. I might feel the need to clarify exactly what “kind” of Christian I am. I might want to make sure that I am not branded as judgmental, intolerant, discriminatory, unforgiving, or even downright hateful. I don’t like feeling this way. Yet I know that throughout history, much damage has been perpetrated in the name of Christianity. I also know that in recent times, many truth- and love-seeking Christians have desperately sought to right those historical wrongs through accountability and reconciliation.

How do we witness to Christ’s love in an era where some have used the image of God so wrongly? How do we share God’s message in a world that continues to grapple with diverse challenges, societal unrest, and seemingly endless global crises?

First, we recognize that God is within us. Then, we seek to see that same God in ALL those we meet. Then, we begin our work of love in this world.

Jesus came to transform us. God entered this world in human form to remind us that we are created in God’s image – and that God is loving (above all), transformative, restorative, and creative – and that means we are capable of all these same qualities.

We must believe that they WILL know that we are Christians by our love! They will recognize us by our simple, yet meaningful, acts of kindness, charity, forgiveness, faith, hope, and LOVE!

Love is grounded in action.

Last week, we sent a group of our own youth into our city to do God’s work. This group of young people did remarkable acts and they, too, may have been evangelists unaware, just as I had been a decade ago. They scrubbed bathrooms and floorboards for a faith community consisting primarily of people living with mental illness. One of our teens offered their arm to an older woman struggling down a sloped driveway. They worked in a community garden, they cut grass, cleaned up debris, and completed mundane office tasks. They unloaded heavy cartons of food onto shelves, and packed grocery bags with food to distribute to those who rely on us to sustain them.

We must continue to believe that even simple acts of love and kindness have a ripple effect and may inspire others to act in the same way.

Conversely, if we grow frustrated by those who use Christianity as an excuse to treat others poorly, and if we remain idle or silent as this occurs, this may reinforce negative stereotypes about Christianity. We must make sure that our love shines even more brightly in the world today.

Thomas Merton put it best: “The fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that God’s plan has been neither frustrated nor changed.”

We must keep doing good works and proclaiming that our Christian love reigns supreme. We must have faith that they will indeed know we are Christians by our love, or maybe even by our t-shirts.