Unite as followers of Jesus Christ.

Jesus made it a point to confide in His followers with this stirring and sometimes troubling statement: “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34, CEB).

How is it troubling? Because it doesn’t align with what we too often assume will serve as our “Jesus person” calling cards to the world—bumper stickers, Scripture verse T-shirts, cross necklaces, embossed Bible covers, picket signs, boycott lists, John 3:16 tattoos, and primetime debates.

In our industry, these items play important roles, but they aren’t Jesus’ method of choice for communicating our allegiance to Him. He chose something more visible than glow-in-the-dark “Light of the World” bracelets or salt-of-the-earth salt shakers.

He chose love. Specifically, He told His disciples that if their (and our) love for each other looked like His love, the watching world would know.

In some ways, that must mean that if we have to tell people we belong to Jesus, we haven’t made it clear enough in the nonverbal way—by showing. Authors are well-acquainted with the value of show-don’t-tell as a literary technique. It is much preferred to merely reciting facts or expressing emotions with narration rather than in body language, facial expressions, and actions.

THE GOSPEL’S LOVE LANGUAGE

Opportunities to demonstrate our devotion to Jesus present themselves in our reactions to each other within the industry. As devastating as it was for communities, vendors, publishers, authors, and other bookstores, the curtain call for Family Christian stores afforded a show-don’t-tell example as some lived out the love of Christ in their responses.

Employees who lost their jobs received notes of encouragement from other retailers. Nearby independent stores offered their services to help with the transition, some even honoring Family Christian coupons. At their own expense, other retailers reassured their communities and churches that they weren’t left without options for their needs. Thank-you notes for years of service showed up in inboxes. Phone calls and emails asked, “How can we help? Is there anything we can do for you?”

Retailers didn’t merely sell greeting cards, encouragement cards, praying-for-you cards, and thank-you notes—they used them to bless those in desperate need. Moved by Jesus’s instructions about “pure religion and undefiled” (James 1:27), pockets of people within the industry “cared for widowed and orphaned” books, authors, retailers, vendors, and their families.

When CBA’s Christian MARKET reports that a veteran of the publishing, writing, retail, or distribution marketplace is now breathing celestial air, expressions of sympathy and prayers flood in from all corners of the industry. When bookstore owners and staff members show up on the scene of a natural disaster with shovels and brooms, mops and bottled water, meals, and a shoulder to lean on, their wordless acts show the heart of the Gospel.

KNOWN BY THEIR LOVE

Does the underground church spend time bickering about politics? Do they celebrate the demise of a struggling home church or toss rocks of resentment and anger when a sister church is in trouble?

Or do they spend every treasured moment they have together focused on Jesus, protecting His Word and one another? Do they kick their wounded to the curb or do they bind one another’s wounds, even self-inflicted ones?

What a lesson for those of us who are privileged to live our faith aboveground. What a thought-provoking example for this industry. It isn’t us vs. them. It’s all of us, together. We mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. That concept sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We love fiercely, purely, without resentment—even in our business dealings.Because it isn’t about spreadsheets or marketing campaigns, nor awards or our ability to pay the light bill. It’s our love that marks us as followers of Jesus Christ.

—Cynthia Ruchti

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