Tuesday, 26 May 2020
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? 1 John 4:20
John now builds upon his previous words, which said, “We love Him because He first loved us.” It is a statement of fact based on our position as believers. Therefore, what he now says must be taken from that perspective, and it must be thought through with care. The premise is that of unconditional love. God loved us at a point in time when we were His enemies. The fact that Christ came to redeem us means that we needed to be redeemed. No person is redeemed apart from Christ. Therefore, the love John writes of is an unconditional love.
Now he begins with, “If someone says, ‘I love God.’” He has already said that we love God. This is because we understand that God has loved us, and He has done for us what was, therefore, a true act of love. As believers who have realized this, the proposition he now sets forth cannot be speaking of believers. The fact that we love God has been settled. Therefore, he is referring to someone who has not been perfected in love; he is not a believer. If this person says, “I love God,” and yet he “hates his brother, he is a liar.”
The two are mutually exclusive, and John will explain why this is so in a moment. But are there believers who do not love their brothers or their fellow man? The answer is pretty much unanimously, “Yes.” We have warring feelings that come over us, we have disagreements, and because of these things, real animosity arises in us. Does this mean that we are liars about loving God? No, as noted, that proposition has already been settled.
Therefore, this is not (it cannot be) speaking on the same level as the human-based emotional love that we feel. Rather, it is the understanding that those people around us are people that Christ died for too. Even in their possibly completely depraved state, we were in the same condition as they were – enemies of God and destined for condemnation. Our love for those people is to be displayed in an earnest desire for them to glorify God, be saved through Christ, and not be cast into hell. To desire for them to go to hell, while we – who were in the same position as they were – is contrary to understanding our position in Christ.
How much more for those who are not saved. They claim they love God, but they hate others who are in the same fallen state that they are in. They cannot love God, because they do not understand what God has done for them in Christ. If they did, they would come to God through Christ and be saved. They would also desire for those who are in the same position as they are to also be saved.
This is then supported by John’s next words. He says, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The proposition is obvious on the surface. He cannot. A person who sees his brother in a fallen, unsaved state, and who hates that person, is only demonstrating that he hates himself as well. They are in the same state.
John is writing about the perfected love of God. It is the love that has come to the understanding of what God has done, and thus who God is – God is love.
If God is love, it means that God loves – unconditionally. Those who have not understood this love remain in darkness, and they cannot love God. Hating their brother, who they can see, reveals that they do not love whom they cannot see. The unseen God is the perfecter of love. In not having accepted His love in Christ, their love has not been perfected.
Life application: What we see today is a more aggressive repetition of a lesson John has already stated in 1 John 3:17 –
“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?”
As John has built his logical case for truth and sound doctrine, he has inserted obvious questions for us to consider. Today’s question is painfully blunt and demands an answer that is rather unpleasant when the mirror is on us. Too many people hold up their hands and say, “Yes, count me with the ‘God’ family…I really love Him!”
However, after their proclamation, they show complete disregard and even contempt (hates his brother) for the brethren. John says that we don’t need to wonder about this person’s motivations or sincerity concerning God – he is a liar. There is no love of God in him.
When we as humans have contempt for our brother who we can see, how can we have love for God whom we can’t see? Contempt for our brother and love of God are mutually exclusive. As you evaluate yourself and others, ensure you use the biblical model. If your evaluation is based on doctrine, truth, and love, you will be able to identify the truth of the person. As Jesus said to His disciples –
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
This commandment will be the subject of John’s next words.
O God, we have complete faith in You and in Your word. We know that Your promises are true even though we have never seen You. But we honestly struggle with loving our brethren. Give us the ability and wisdom to handle difficulties concerning them in a way which demonstrates our love for You. In Jesus’ name we pray! Amen.