I am beginning to believe that the truest visible mark of a follower of Christ is a love for people.
I don't think you can witness the lifestyle of Jesus found in the Gospels, claim to walk in His steps and remain indifferent to people. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in a person, He immediately begins to work on the way in which a person interacts (mentally & actually) with others. He asks, "What do you believe about people?" Because what you believe is directly connected to what you perceive. You see who you are, so God changes who you are and consequently how you see.
People become the priority in life. (family, friends, co-workers, strangers, etc.) You think about their well-being, their backstory and their goings on. You want to get to know them below the surface. You want to--then--surface the buried treasure of their hearts. You want to see Jesus fill them with his life, laughter and love.
You listen more intently when people are talking. Your eyes gaze into their pupils with curiosity. You soak up the stories they are telling like a dog lapping rain water out of a puddle. People are glorious creatures who deserve undivided attention, and so you treat them as such. You approach people to listen and learn. You ask questions to see where they're coming from.
Above all, you want to know the "why behind the what".
It's not enough for them to tell you they enjoy sailing, ask them why.
It's not enough to know that they don't like to cry in front of people, ask them why.
It's not enough to hear the facts of their day and their feelings about those facts, ask them why they feel as they do about those facts. (sounds over the top...but it's really not creepy...it's just a simple second question..."So why do you feel this about that?")
Most people are engaged on such a surface level. They rarely get to share the "why behind and beyond the what", and when they do, people often don't stay tuned in until they are finished telling their story. I believe Jesus' skill to ask good questions and be an active listener was the key to his popularity with people. He really cared.
But it was more than just caring, he was--for lack of better words--present. I heard someone say one time that "you can't fake presence". You either are or aren't. There isn't a greater "put off" than when someone is trying to "put on". Presence isn't put on. It just is. I was reading in the Bible that when God showed up to Elijah in his moment of depression the text says he came "all at once". To me, this is presence. All of you is there in the fullness of that moment of time.
Being fully present with people is a fruit of the Spirit, in my opinion. I don't think you can do this with skill power or will power...that is conjured and manipulated presence. I think this is something that God's Spirit produces in a person as they surrender themselves to his dense presence.
In John 1 it says that "The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us." This is presence. The idea of dwelling is deep. To dwell with someone is to live near them, with them, among them. To linger longer in the conversation. To stay in the midst of people. To mingle and tangle yourself with the people, taking on their form and meeting them where they're at. This is incarnational living.
So you can't be a Christian without becoming overwhelmingly awakened to the humans living all around you. You can't be awakened to God's love without wanting that for others. You can't be forgiven without wanting that for others. As Jesus clearly said, "Freely you have received, now freely give." This is the simplest transmission of mission I see next to his other empowering statement: "As the Father has sent me, so send I you." We--you and me--must be change-agents. We are ambassadors of this "presence" that has deeply affected and infected us. We have to take that to others. This is the impulse of a true convert. This is the instinct of a Christ-follower.
Do you love people? Does your heart ache for the lost and hurting? Is your soul restless to "seek and save those who are lost" in solidarity with our Lord's passion? Are people more important than things to you? More important than animals? More important than money? More important than success? Are people filling your mind throughout the day and are you sensing the inklings of God in how to engage those people with redemptive love?
"They will know that you are my disciples by the love you have one for another." - Jesus