Sacred Music Sunday: They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love

I recently finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s a dystopian novel that takes place in a society where books are forbidden. Firemen (and they are all men) are tasked with burning any books that are found. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman who secretly gathers and reads books that he is tasked with burning. Eventually he is caught and goes on the run and meets up with a group of former professors and other lovers of books. The people he meets up with have memorized various books to preserve until after the collapse of the regime so they can recite the books and society can have the knowledge again. One of them asks Montag whether he memorized anything. He said that he had memorized Ecclesiastes. Then we get the crowning line of the novel when one of the professors solemnly pronounces “You are the book of Ecclesiastes.”

It got me thinking about what it means to embody a book. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag was the book of Ecclesiastes because he memorized it and was preserving the words for society. The others in the group were other books, both secular and religious, because they had memorized those. But I don’t think memorizing is enough. Even Satan quoted scripture to Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

I really like the idea of being a letter of Christ known and read by everyone. If Christ were to write a letter, I think He would say what He said in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment–to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

Jesus further said that the commandment to love God and our neighbor is the commandment upon which all the law and the prophets hang. (see Matthew 22:36-40) The phrase “the law and the prophets” refers to the five books of Moses (the law) and the prophetic writings (the prophets) comprising most of the Old Testament. So if we love one another, we become scripture – the letter from Christ written on the tablets of our hearts.

A folk song that gets at this point is They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love. If we proceed through our life with love, then even if others never pick up a Bible, they will read the word of God, the letter of Christ, by seeing us live. We are the book.

Trudy

Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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4 Responses

  1. Niki-La says:

    This was a good thought to start the day with today. Thank you.
    I’m offering another arrangement of this song for people’s enjoyment. This is the way I first encountered this hymn, as a member of the virtual choir Beyond The Walls. I love the message of this music. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bL5bT_Ezeq8

  2. Allison says:

    Love this!

  3. Ziff says:

    This is excellent, Trudy. I love your point that memorizing and being able to recite a text doesn’t tell us anything about whether we actually learned anything from what it taught.

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