Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. 1 John 4:20-21
John was radical. He put things in stark either/or categories that make for uncomfortable reading. But there’s a relentless logic that is inescapable. I would think that everyone who attends church would say or sing some variant of “I love you, Lord” in every single act of worship.
And many of them (or should I say, rather, of us) oftentimes live in less than perfect harmony with their “brothers or sisters.”
John phrases it as a commandment: The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. But how can I be commanded to be nicer? Isn’t this just the way I am?
Well, that’s rather the point. The context forms the explanation. He begins with a plea, Dear friends, let us love one another but he acknowledges that love comes from God. So, that is to say that Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Up to this point, it all sounds a bit abstract, or even feelings-based, So John explains carefully that love is not an idea or a project, but a Person;
This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
He underlines the point. The consequence of Christ is that we live together better!
But Jesus not only exemplifies that way of living, but empowers it, that we might live through him.
I have a feeling that whenever I am tempted to turn my faith into some kind of religious gameshow, or to theorise or theologize about our God, I need to read this passage again.
And let its uncompromising truth hit me for six.