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For the people of God it only makes sense that we love God. We may struggle with learning what that love entails, but we understand that He expects it. And, as we come to know Him and His love more, we are moved to open ourselves more completely to loving Him. However, there is an integral part of this love that may not seem as obvious.
Reading through 1 John it becomes apparent that there is a direct connection between the love we have for God and the love we have for our brethren. And this is not an optional connection. Consider the following passages:
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
This is a powerful way to state this connection. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another. It is part of the package. John goes on a few verses later to state this from the other direction.
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11
As we go through these verses in this epistle remember that the word “love” that is used here to describe the relationship among brethren is the same word used to describe the love God has for us and the love He expects us to have for Him.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:10-19
It is hard to miss the strength of this connection in these verses. Anyone who hates his brother does not have eternal life. It might be tempting to feel comforted by telling ourselves that it is okay since I don’t hate my brother. However, it is not enough to feel good about not hating. It is essential that we love one another to comply with His commandment.
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. 1 John 3:23-24
Notice something about how verse 23 is written. It is not two but one commandment that we believe on Him and love one another. These cannot be separated. We cannot abide in Him without that love for one another.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12
The verses we have considered constitute a large part of this epistle from John. It is hard to miss the point that God is making through John. We need to commit ourselves to learning how to love God. And an essential part of that is learning how to love one another. It is in the realization of that love for one another that we comply with His expectations of us. This love for one another is essential to abiding in Him.
So, we understand that loving one another is part of what it means to love the Lord and to abide in Him. But, that brings up another question. What does it mean to love one another? The Lord does not leave us guessing on this point. He provides us in His word some specific teaching about what it means to love one another.
In earlier posts, I discussed some points about the meaning of loving God and definitions of love. It might be useful to refer to some of those discussions and the scriptures in them since it is the same love that we are talking about here. (Click on one of the category links on the right of this page to read some of the earlier posts.)
What scriptures can you think of to help us understand what is meant by loving one another?
In the next series of posts let’s study together what this means.
Until next time…