We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:19-21, NIV*
Seen… not seen…. But I have seen God, at least His character: in the ways he cares for me, in His Word, in creation around me. I love Him because He’s already proven His love for me.
And I’ve also seen my brothers’ and sisters’ characters in what they do. Some generate an automatic response of love. Others, my instinctive response is avoidance… perhaps even dislike.
John calls us to an active love: “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, NIV) It’s not “feel love for,” it’s “show love to,” perhaps even “serve.”
I’ve told my sons many times over the years, “you don’t have to like one another, but it’s your job to love one another.” Maybe that’s the point of this command to love.
John goes on to say “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:3,4a, NIV) And he says we overcome the world by believing in Jesus, the Son of God. (1 John 5:5).
With loving my brothers and sisters in mind, I wonder about this overcoming the world. Maybe in part it means overcoming or breaking free of the world’s default mindset. Taking on the perspective of Jesus, learning to see like He does. Learning to love the unlovable because He sees something in them—in us—that is lovable: we are designed and created by the God of the universe, and He deems us worthy of love.
In the strength and grace of Jesus, I can find what I need to show love to the difficult ones who come my way. They need it most.
Father, please forgive my hard-heartedness—there is still so much world in me to overcome. Please help me see people as You see them. And give me not only love and compassion, but wisdom too, because with the demanding ones, sometimes what they want isn’t what You would give. Help me to depend on You and not trust my own instincts.