“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.”
1 John 4:20
Christ or Culture?
As an ethics professor, I am forced to use many curse words (e.g. obligation, duty, self-sacrifice, and self-giving). These words are anathema to a culture consumed by its own subjective feelings and the desperate desire that those who we don’t really know—nor whom we really care about—affirm our feelings. This self-driven culture does not emulate the truth of God’s love. So when we consider our stance, we must pose the question: Is it love or lies?
Too often, the result is a perpetual cycle of frustration, disappointment, and belief that we will never be understood.
Better and Best
John offers us hope. Whether or not anyone else truly knows me or if I even know myself, God certainly knows me and what’s best for me. John shares with us that God desires that we would love one another well. He said this previously in John 13:35, declaring that the world will know we are disciples of Jesus by the way we love one another.
To love God demands that we love one another. If we don’t love one another, then our claims to love God are empty.
Simple Truth and Love
God shows us how to love others, and it is quite simple. We know God loves us because while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). The eternal second person of the Trinity became truly human (while remaining truly divine) in order to suffer and die to justify God’s name and redeem His people. Philippians 2:5-11 offers a good perspective.
That’s simple, isn’t it? Just die to self and live for others. It is not a transaction: if they treat me well, then I’ll love them. Indeed, God’s love is too radical for that. Our Lord’s love says that whether or not they love Me, I’m going to give everything for them. If we don’t adopt this attitude but claim we love God, we’re liars. So, is it love or lies? Loving God necessitates and compels that we love others the way God did.
Here’s the catch: don’t try to do this alone…please. Join a group and learn to love those in your ongoing biblical community. Invite someone from your group to go with you as you serve others who are yet to believe in your community. And be diligent about your spiritual health through daily Bible engagement, prayer, and fasting because this sort of love—Christlike love—is something empowered by the Holy Spirit.