This is a guest post by Kara Holmes.
Nine weeks. Sixty-three days. Seven hundred fifty-six hours. Those numbers measure the span of time I lived in the hospital in 2015. Though I felt completely fine, I was admitted to the antepartum floor due to deteriorating conditions in my womb. The plan was simple: I was to continue carrying our second daughter, Alisa Jane, until it was no longer safe to keep her in my womb.
Recently, I told a friend about this experience, and she asked, “How did your family logistically make that happen?”
It was a good question, echoing the same concerns we had when we were walking through that difficult situation. I was a stay-at-home mom, and Trey was the sole provider for our family. He had to keep working, yet we had no childcare for Kate. Adding to the complexity of our circumstances, the hospital was an hour drive from our home. I pined away the long hours each day in anticipation of the 4-5 evenings each week when Trey and Kate could make the trip to visit, delivering me from the plaguing loneliness of my sterile hospital room.
Thankfully, our little family didn’t just survive that season; we actually thrived, even in all the heartache and grief. Reflecting on the experience with the benefit of hindsight, I answered my new friend with the simple, yet profound, reason for this: “The body of Christ surrounded us.”
A Distinguishing Characteristic
Speaking to the disciples on the eve of his death, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV). We don’t have to guess at Christ’s meaning, because he defines “love” in the previous verse by the standard of his own love: “…just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” He further clarifies His meaning in John 15:13, explaining, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The events that transpired in the hours and days following Jesus’ words put action to his meaning, as Jesus willingly gave his life for the world.
None of this is new to the Christian. We reflect often over the incomprehensible, unconditional love of God. We remember how he took our sins upon himself, bearing our guilt so that he might cleanse our souls. We rejoice because God has not only forgiven us completely, but he has also declared us to be sons and daughters of the one true God!
We know God’s love means we are to offer this same type of love to those not yet covered by the blood of Christ. We remember Christ’s charge to the disciples before he ascended to Heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). In obedience, we do as he said, taking the gospel to our local communities and even to the ends of the earth, spreading it far and wide.
Yet sometimes, I wonder if we have neglected to remember the true intent of Christ’s words on the eve of his death. Jesus was concerned that night not with how his disciples (and those of us that followed) would love “the lost,” but with how they would love one another. In fact, Jesus anticipated that his followers would be known by their love for one another, because the uniqueness of their love would reflect the greatest love this world has ever known: God’s incomprehensible, unconditional love. This is the distinguishing characteristic of the Church.
A Defining Call
The love Christ speaks of in the above passages is the deepest, richest, fullest type of love imaginable, and he expects us to operate within the Christian community by this same standard of love. We are the Lord’s medium through which he has intended for the gospel to be carried to others. As we follow through on God’s glorious design, the lost world will hear the richness of the Gospel and will see God’s love demonstrated as we love one another. 1 John 3:16-18 further underscores our defining call:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
It’s often easy to extend this love to our friends and family, but it’s not as easy when we don’t quite bond with the person or know her that well. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we will automatically connect with every person in the body of Christ, as we all come with different personalities, senses of humor, backgrounds, and ways of relating. Yet our differences don’t let us “off the hook” from loving one another as Christ loved us. Merely tolerating those Christians we don’t get along with doesn’t meet the standard Jesus set for us on the cross.
When we put Jesus’ words to action, we understand that loving as Christ loved means giving ourselves away, even when it’s inconvenient, even when it hurts. We are called to actively love one another, choosing to put the needs of others before our own for the sake of unity and blessing within the body of Christ. In every way—through physical provision, emotional support, and spiritual nourishing—we are to be concerned with the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. With wisdom and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are to sacrificially give for the benefit of others.
A Dedicated Community
Those nine weeks I lived at Baylor Hospital were some of the most humbling days of my life. Helpless to care for the needs of my husband and daughter, I watched as believers from our community surrounded us in support. Friends with children of their own gave of their time to watch Kate so Trey could work. Christians we hardly knew provided meals, grocery shopped, and gave financially to help us navigate that trying season. Believers—some I had never even met—visited me almost daily, bringing with them the fragrance of Christ to the 6th floor at Baylor.
One hospital aid visited my room daily during those nine weeks, and she often lingered beyond the requirements of her job to spend time with me and my friends. Near the end of my stay, she commented to me that there was something “different” about us, and this gave me the opportunity to tell her about Jesus’ sacrificial love that has made all the difference to us.
Through that experience, I saw firsthand the powerful display of Christ’s love in the dedicated community of believers. When we operate as he intended for us to live, we, the body of Christ, are a magnificent reflection of the greatest love known to man—God’s love for us. One night long ago, Jesus said “…all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” and he was right!
 Phil. 2:1-11
Kara and her husband, Trey, love the city life in Texas. Married for ten years now, their days are full of all the joy and chaos you would expect to come with three kids, two dachshunds, and one Great Dane. Read more of Kara’s thoughts on how faith intersects with life at Chasing Genuine, or follow her on Instagram to see pictures of some really cute kids…one who happens to boast an extra chromosome!