Digging in Deeper: 1 John 4:20

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”‬‬ (CSB – Read the chapter

So, the first time we looked at this verse, we established the rather uncomfortable truth that we either love or hate the people around us. If we are not committed to intentionally moving them in the direction of Jesus, we hate them. It may not be an intense, emotional, passionate hatred the way we might normally think of when we hear the word, but throughout the Scriptures the word “hatred” often means to merely reject. Even without the emotion, if we reject the people whom God has accepted, we have a problem. What John says next makes all of this even more uncomfortable. 

Anyone who would claim to love God and yet have anyone in his life whom he hates, John says, is a liar. Hold on now! A liar? If we claim to love God and yet have anyone whom we aren’t willing to work intentionally to move in the direction of Jesus we’re a liar? That can’t be right. Besides, “liar” is such a harsh word. Surely John didn’t mean that. Did he? 

Well, he wrote it. 

And, because he knew he’d be running right over the line from instructing to meddling, in the next sentence he explains himself further. He essentially asks this: “Look, if you don’t love the people you can see, how are you going to love someone you can’t see?” If we aren’t willing to commit ourselves to seeing the people around us whom we can see and touch and talk to be moved intentionally in the direction of Jesus, how are we going to do that with someone we can’t see? 

Now, you might protest, “But this other person is Jesus! I can’t move Him in His direction. He IS the direction!” But that’s just it. If you know the direction but aren’t moving people in it, you don’t really know the direction, do you? 

Think about it like this: Let’s say there is a guy standing in the entrance of a store and a whole crowd of people are coming in to buy one specific item. Some of the people he leads right to it. Others, though, he leaves to find it on their own. Still some others he points in the wrong direction. Does this guy really care about the item in question? It’s hard to think he does. After all, if he really liked it, wouldn’t he want to let other people find and experience it for themselves? He doesn’t really like the item so much as he likes knowing about the item and serving as a gatekeeper for who can use it and who can’t. 

When it comes to God, loving Him doesn’t mean we work to move Him in any certain direction. The definition changes just a bit. It means instead that we are intentional about seeing Him fully recognized for who He is. Well, God is someone everybody should know. He is the glorious creator of the universe and the only source of life. More than that, as John wrote elsewhere in this same letter, He is love. 

If we love Him, then we want everyone to know and experience that. If we don’t want everyone to know and experience that, then we don’t love Him. Period. This is why the one thing Jesus Himself said would mark us as His followers is our love for one another. If we get that down, we get the whole thing. If we don’t, we miss it. All of it. 

So then, as followers of Jesus, we have an important question to be asking ourselves all the time: Am I known by my love for Jesus? If that’s not the first and most important thing people know about us, we’ve got a problem. Let’s lean into the Holy Spirit and get to fixing it. Let us live the love we have.

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