Loving God and People
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
We live in a world that has a significant misunderstanding of what love is and what it means to love. The world thinks that loving someone means never wanting to offend them or upset them or disappoint them. But the reality is that kind of love is really self-serving and self-protecting. Those who love in that way do so because they don’t want others to think less of them. They don’t want others to think they are judgmental or condescending. In the end, if my way of loving someone is not doing or saying anything to offend or upset or disappoint them, then it’s really more about me than it is about that person. For this reason John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” While we might be tempted to think to ourselves, ‘Gosh! That’s harsh language. Just because I don’t want to offend or upset or disappoint someone does not mean I hate that person.’ But it does, according to the apostle John. If we see a truck barreling toward someone and we do nothing to warn him or rescue him, we clearly must hate that person. If we see someone, a believer or unbeliever, engaging in behavior we know will be harmful to themselves or someone else and we say or do nothing to warn them or help them, we clearly must hate them. We may not think we do. We may not feel we do. But hate is not about thoughts, or feelings—it’s about inaction. It’s about watching someone harm themselves or others and doing nothing to change it. Thus, as John writes, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18). Love must be more than words—love does what is best for someone else.
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