“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.”
1 John 4.7
1 John is a very circular book. John seems to circle around the same topic multiple times, but through all of this, it seems like one of his main points is this: right and true worship of God results in right and proper treatment of others or your worship of God should change how you treat others. In 1 John 4, John commands his listeners to love one another. He is specifically teaching this within a church or congregation, i.e. those he is writing to. The congregation ought to love one another. In the early church this probably wasn’t easy. People knew each other. Most congregations were in towns and cities, and the majority of these cities were tiny in comparison to today’s standards. Not only that, but most people who lived in the town had lived there for generations. Most people knew your dirt and your family history. It wasn’t an easy thing to cover up. This is the same in our small church as well. Many grew up together and have a history both good and possibly not as good.
So John is addressing something within a congregation that is not so easy to do. It is not an easy thing to love each other especially in a deep meaningful way. What is easy is to stay comfortably distant from one another so that love isn’t tangibly different from not loving. In some cases, the distance that we live from each other already makes it difficult to show love to one another. It is genuinely difficult to know each other in a way that we can show love.
Why is John so concerned about the congregation loving each other? He is concerned that they love each other because loving our brothers and sisters is a necessary outworking of loving our God. If we look further on in 1 John 4 he says this, “If someone says ‘I love God,’ and he hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” In other words, we ought not to harbor hatred of our brother for if you do then you are a liar about your faith in God.
John presents these stark absolutes for us, and they provide us clarity, but he is lacking on the details and nuance. We cannot take his words lightly. Our faith ought to bear fruit in our relationships especially in the household of God, the church. So we ought to ask: do we know each other enough to love one another? We should also consider how we love each other when difficulties arise in our relationships. How do you love your brother when he sins against you? How do you love your sister when she does something you don’t like? The Spirit says to us through the apostle John that when we love our brother and sister, we are loving God. 1 John 4.21 says it like this: ‘And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.’
As we seek to gather on Sunday to worship our God, let us consider also how we are loving one another.
- Pastor Jason