Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
1 John 4:20, NIV*
My automatic response to the second part of this verse is that it’s much easier to love God, who is perfect—and worthy of love—than to love imperfect people who may not seem “lovable”.
And the brother or sister I’ve seen, worked with and discovered the foibles of is harder to love than the one I’ve only met online and gotten to know the positive side of their nature. I’m sure others feel the same about me.
When I find myself arguing with Scripture, I know there’s a problem. This time, reading these verses, I stopped to think.
Maybe what I’ve been calling love for God, that response of my spirit to His, is worship, not love. Adoration, even.
When the Bible talks about love, it’s usually as an action rather than a feeling. We’re commanded to love our Christian brothers and sisters, as John reminds us in the very next verse.
That’s not a call to manufacture or pretend warm feelings toward one another. It’s a call to active love.
That brings a second question: if loving my brother and sister, whose needs I have seen, is the act of caring for them, what does it look like to love God? In the next chapter, John says we love God by keeping His commands.
We need to do this in His strength and by the power of His Spirit in us. With willing, thankful and surrendered hearts, as an offering of worship. There’s no room for legalism here.
Father, give me Your heart towards others, Christians and non. Empower me by Your Spirit to actively and practically show love to them, and by so doing to love You as well.