This is the last place in 1 John that specifically mentions love. There are some themes repeated and emphasized here about the nature of this love in action.
Before I proceed, I would like to pause while you read the whole letter of 1 John again. It takes less than 15 minutes. I will wait while you read.
Now, let’s take a look at this passage at the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5.
20 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? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 4:20 – 5:3
As the writer here says, it is not logical that we would be convinced that we are a loving person with someone we have never seen, while being hateful toward the people with which we have contact everyday. For some, this may be an intentional deception, but I think most who practice this inconsistency sincerely believe that they love God, while mistreating their brethren. Theirs is a self-deception.
How can this be so? I think this comes from only learning love as an abstract concept. We can learn definitions and memorize phrases and scriptures and fail to understand that love is only realized in a relationship with another person. This love is a behavior, not just a memorized concept. It is impossible to be a loving person with God and yet a hateful person with others. As 1 John 5:1 puts is, anyone who actually loves the Creator will also love his brethren. It does not work any other way.
It is inescapable in another way. Matthew 22:36-40 records Jesus describing the essence of the Law and Prophets in the commandment that we love God with all we are and to also love our neighbors. It is not optional.
When we truly love God, we are motivated to learn what He has designed for us and what are His wishes for us now and for the future. We will want to learn and obey His commandments. This is part of what it is to love Him and loving one another is a part of that. It is not separable.
What do you think?
Next time I am planning to look at what 2 John has to say about love.