“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Every now and then you come across a verse you’d rather just leave alone all things considered. If you could unread it somehow you might really consider doing that. Or, you could be convinced to make up something that isn’t totally true in order to fall generally in line with whatever it seems to be saying. This is one of those verses.
This one starts out tough from the beginning and doesn’t get any easier from there. Do you love God? You may or may not. But, before you answer that question, you might want to answer this one first: Do you hate anybody? You might think you can answer that one a bit more quickly. Being a “hater” today is one of the worst things someone can be. Many of us would be tempted to quickly assert that we don’t hate anybody.
Let’s go ahead, though, and make things really uncomfortable: Is there anyone you don’t love? That’s a different question altogether. Of course we don’t love everyone. We don’t know everyone. How could we love them. Well, is there anyone you would not work intentionally to move them in the direction of Jesus if given the chance? There just may be some of those folks out there. The reasons they are sitting in that camp are many, but the odds are good that there are at least a few folks who might be sitting in it for you. For me too.
Perhaps you can see where I’m going and are already gearing up to tell me that not loving someone is not the same as hating them. Maybe. But what does it mean to hate someone? Google defines it as an intense, passionate dislike for someone. It would be safe to say that you want the worst for that person, yes? Well, if you don’t actively love someone, if you’re not at least willing if given the chance to work to move them intentionally in the direction of Jesus, then that would mean you’re willing for them not to be moved in the direction of Jesus, right?
Stay with me here. If they don’t move in the direction of Jesus, then their life will be moving away from Jesus. According to guys like…well…Jesus, the only thing that ultimately lies at the end of that path is death. Eternal death. Hell. If you’re okay—as demonstrated by your actions and intent—for someone to go to Hell, then that kind of means you want the worst for them, doesn’t it? After all, what could be worse than Hell? And if you want the worst for them, then we should be able to fairly safely conclude that you hate them, right?
This isn’t getting any more comfortable, is it? We’ll talk about what all of this means in the next note. Until then, do some self-examination. Is there anybody you really just don’t love? Why? What can you do about it?