1 John 4:19-21, “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
We left the last lesson with the understanding that God’s perfect love for each of us individually casts down any type of fear or dread of eternal punishment. For if you ARE a child of His, then His love does NOT cause dread nor fear, but should produce an AWE of God’s splendor and majesty in and of itself.
John now establishes the foundation of that love, both in us and towards others; God is the first to have shown or demonstrated love. Because He loved us first, we are thus able to love Him AND one another. Our very ability to love comes from the fact that He loved us by His actions first, in the form of sending His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to not just die for our sins, while we were still unlovely and unlovable, but by sending us His Holy Spirit that empowers us with the same Spirit as Him and thus enabling us with he power to love as God, unconditionally!
If you remember, the Ten Commandments tells us to love God with everything we have and we are, AND to love one another as ourselves. But the Commandments couldn’t produce that love within us, it could only show us our need of that ability within our lives if we were to Covenant with God Almighty, our Heavenly Father. What Jesus did, coming to earth in the form of man, being All-man, yet at the same time, being All-divine, He gave us that ability to relate, once again, intimately with God, our Father, because He, Christ Jesus, accepted all of our sins which prevented us from coming into the Father’s presence. With that “veil” torn aside, we are now able too, THROUGH Christ Jesus enter into that relationship which Jesus continually claimed was His mission, to “show us the Father.” (John 14:8-11). We are now, cleansed by the Blood of Jesus, able to come boldly before the Father’s Throne! (Hebrews 4:16).
With the Holy Spirit sent to empower us with the same Spirit as Christ Jesus, we are able to fulfill that commission. Another thing to remember and consider, the Holy Spirit IS as an anointing fire, enabling us to accomplish His goals with power and authority. We are reminded this in the Gospel of Luke, “John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Luke 3:16. The fire described here is in reference to an “anointing” and it shouldn’t be a surprise for the very reason that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ Jesus sent to abide in each and everyone who accepts Christ’s gift of sacrifice into their lives. As “Christians,” with Christ Jesus as our prime example, we share that same anointing when His Spirit abides in us. Remember, the term Christ is NOT Jesus’ last name, but it means “Anointed One.” As Christians, true followers of Christ Jesus, with the Holy Spirit abiding in the lives of every believer, we become “anointed ones” in the likeness and example of Christ; or at the very least I have to say, we should exemplify that!
That same anointing fire is like a flame fanned and igniting God’s love in us as well as catching “fire” in others we come into contact with. The early church, when it was becoming established due to the Apostle’s and Disciple’s teachings became known as a “movement” because of the love, the actions that each member took towards one another, and that is what made it stand out from other “religions.” Now with saying that, I truly have to ask this question; do we as a Body of Christ, stand out in that regard? Do our denominations and religious organizations that take the claim that they are “Christians” stand out in that regard? I say this for us to be introspective and to analyze our own self-motives.
I can say this; since the Body of Christ is made up of members from all walks of life and denominations, we can see when the Body of Christ itself has an impact on the communities around them and no denomination or organization can claim that fact. Remember, just because someone belongs to a denomination or religious organization that “identifies” with Christ, does not mean that everyone within those organizations are true followers of Christ Jesus. We live in a day and age when to the world thinking, it is important what you “identify” with, whether you truly are what you “identify” with or not. An example I’ve heard many times, “I may spend a lot of time in my garage, that doesn’t make me an automobile!” You may spend a lot of time in a church building, that isn’t what makes you a “Christian!” That is why self-examination is so very important. I will tell you this, if you ARE a follower of Christ Jesus and His example, then He abides in you and you abide in Him as previous verses in 1 John have stated, AND you WILL love others as the Scriptures command!
This leads us directly into the next verse; “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar;.” Pretty strong words from an Apostle of Love as John is often called! Flat out, he’s a liar! No and, ifs or buts about it. This reminds me of a meme that you see all over the social media platforms that even I have used as I love the truth of it so much, “The truth is still the truth, even if nobody believes it, and a lie is still a lie, even if everyone believes it.” The world loves to say that “truth is relative.” In other-words, depending on your perspective it could be the truth or not. That is utter nonsense for the truth is based on a foundation of absolute!
Now forgive me for delving into this next scenario, but I have to point it out or I would be terribly remiss in my teaching. If you watch television of any amount, or you scan the social media platforms, you will constantly see, especially in the political arena people stating, “I don’t hate anybody, I’m a “Christian” or in some cases, I’m a church-goer as if that makes them a “Christian.” I pray for “those” people all the time.” And yet, AND YET, the things they do in front of the camera are some of the most despicable things, such as lying, deceiving and manipulating others to get what they want, no matter the cost to the people that have actually hired them and pay their salary. You all know what I mean and it doesn’t just happen in this Nation but we see it almost everywhere!
How, pray tell me, can you SAY you love God Almighty, the Creator of all and still ACT so hateful? And no, I am not talking about simple disagreements; I am talking about acts of disrespect literally trying to destroy one another personally. Which leads me to another question I want you to think on; just exactly WHO is your brother?
You know I’m going to tell you but first, let me lay the foundation. Our God, is considered by those who love Him, our Heavenly Father; why? Because, He CREATED us! He created all of us who inhabit this world, this planet we call Earth. That means, that if we are ALL creations of His, then we are also brothers and sisters of humankind or “neighbors!” Now the Apostle John in this verse IS actually referring to those who abide in Christ together when he mentions the term brother, but I want you to consider this in the light of those who SAY they are a “Christian” and yet display anything but an example of Christ Jesus!
If someone is a brother (or sister for that matter) then don’t they also have the same Spirit of Christ abiding in them? The same ability to love as empowered by the Holy Spirit as you who says you are a Christian? Just something to think about. If we truly DO love God, then wouldn’t we love God in one another? You know, it’s easy to SAY we love someone when that love doesn’t cost anything! Something to ponder.
I love how John proposes the truth of calling someone a liar when they say they love God yet they don’t show it to those whom also live by the Spirit of Christ. “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Personally I think it is a perfectly reasonable question. John recorded a situation when the Jews were trying to kill Jesus because of the truths He spoke and they refused to listen to Him. Now mind you, Jesus stated He was from God thus they should trust Him. “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” – John 8:42. Even when God was standing in front of them, they did not recognize Him, by His words OR His actions!
The Beloved Apostle is probably hearkening back to times like that when he was in the presence of Jesus. How can you say you love God when you surely haven’t seen Him, because the Scriptures state that no man has seen God? (Except the One who was with Him in the beginning, John 1:18). So, though the Spirit of God is abiding IN your brothers and sisters, yet you act in hate (selfishness and self-centeredness), you still say you LOVE God whom you haven’t seen and yet those standing before you, you revile! The Apostle truly knew how to put the truth in front of the readers so that no one could deny that TRUTH!
I read an example given some time ago about the love of the Lord towards others and I thought is was a pretty good analogy, though no analogy is perfect when comparing natural things to spiritual. But as I remember it, the person said to imagine a bicycle wheel with spokes. At the rim of the wheel, the spokes are further apart, but as you get closer to the center hub, which they said could represent God, the closer the spokes got together. Now imagine the spokes are God’s creation or His children. The closer they get to God, the closer they get to one another and in that closeness, the stability of the WHOLE wheel is maintained.
I can see that representing the Body of Christ. Each spoke is the individual members of that Body (the whole wheel) and some spokes even overlap. But as we get closer to God, the center of all that we are and is to be, the closer we also get to one another, thus forming a strong support to the whole Body of Christ. If any of the spokes were missing or weren’t performing according to where they were placed it would weaken the whole wheel and if many didn’t perform, you really wouldn’t have what could be considered a wheel. It couldn’t support any weight! If anyone has ever tinkered with a bike’s wheels and have had to replace spokes or just took a wheel apart, you will remember that individually the spokes are easy to bend and misshapen and when that happens you cannot reuse them.
As brothers and sisters we are very much like that. I NEED each of you in your position and you NEED me. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise for that is a lie and a deception. It can only make us as a TRUE Church of God, the Body of Christ that much weaker if each isn’t where they belong. It’s like I have tried to do from the very beginning of my online endeavors back in the later 90s; I’ve recognized the possibilities and importance of my brothers and sisters online sharing their gifts no matter how “small” each of you think they are. Through online media, we HAVE been able to reach parts of the world we could only have imagined back in the 80s. To say that each of you has been created and born for this time in history would be a major understatement! THAT is why I do all I can to encourage my brothers and sisters with online service to your brothers and sisters. I have some who only post Scriptures on a daily basis. They search their Bibles for something that sticks out to them and in their minds, it doesn’t amount to very much in the way of ministry (service). Oh I beg to differ with them and I do quite often for we ALL need that encouragement that the various Scriptures give and the edification it brings to the Body of Christ!
John closes this section with a repeat of the COMMANDMENT of Jesus, “that he who loves God must love his brother also.” In the New King James version of the Bible the word MUST is italicized to show the emphasis that was put in the original Greek. In the New American Standard version, it says SHOULD, again to emphasize the importance of loving our brothers and sisters. It is NOT a suggestion, but rather comes across very strongly as a command! As a born-again believer who has been spiritually reborn and renewed it only stands to reason that since God IS Love and He DID love us first, and He dwells within each of us as we dwell IN Him, that we should love for another for the Spirit of Him who loved us first dwells within my brother and sister!
Keeping the thought of love being an action, how do YOU love your brothers and sisters? We can’t possibly meet everyone we friend or acquaint with online, but we most certainly CAN pray for each other AND encourage and inspire one another with the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed on each of us!