Look down at your shirt for a moment—is there a little emblem on the pocket? If you’re drinking coffee while reading this article, is there a green circle with a woman on the cup? This is called “branding”—a marketing strategy by which products are given their distinctive identities. A brand is a collection of images and ideas that symbolize a particular product or company. What comes to mind, for instance, when you think of an apple with a bite missing? Without a doubt, most people will think of the products available through Apple—Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods—the image represents the brand.
Today, companies are no longer interested in creating a product—they want to establish a brand—an instantly recognizable identity that strikes positive chords in the consumer. Branding attempts to sell a “feeling” as much as a product; and companies spend millions of dollars on just the right symbols, slogans, color schemes, and package designs necessary for branding a product, an author, a company, or a concept.
What is your brand? What’s distinctive about you? What makes you different? What “feeling” do you produce in others when they think of you?
Long before Starbucks or Apple, Jesus Christ understood the importance of branding, and He designed a particular “look” for all His disciples. He wanted to give them a simple identity, which He explained in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That’s a brand more powerful than any ever concocted by Madison Avenue; and it’s so important that without it, nothing else rings true in our lives. Christians aren’t known to the world by what we wear—we are known by our love. That’s our simple identity.
Recalling our Lord’s words in John 13, the apostle John restated them in his first epistle, saying: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren . . . . By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:14, 16).
John explained in the next verse, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (verses 17-18).
During the Vietnam War, two men were shot down over North Vietnam in separate incidents at about the same time. One was Porter Halyburton, a white southern boy, and the other was Fred Cherry, the first black officer captured by the North Vietnamese.
The men were thrown into the same cell, and it didn’t appear Fred Cherry would survive. He’d been injured, and Porter soon discovered that he had to care for Fred in very personal ways in order for him to survive. When Fred appeared to be near death, burning with fever, Porter hovered over him day and night, tending his loathsome wounds, exhorting him to hold on.
After the men were liberated, Fred Cherry said he wouldn’t have survived without Porter Halyburton. Porter said the reverse was also true. Caring for Fred gave him a sense of purpose, it enabled him to serve someone else, and it taught him to love a brother in need. And he said, that’s why he survived the Hanoi Hilton.
To lay down our lives for someone doesn’t always mean that we’re going to die for them, though that’s exactly what Christ did for us. But it means we die to ourselves and live to meet the needs of others in Christ’s name.
That’s our identity. That’s the core of our Christ-likeness. As Zechariah 3 says, we are simply brands plucked from the fire. And the world will know we are Christians by our love.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
 James S. Hirsch, Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship that Saved Two POWs in Vietnam (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004).