"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" (I John 5:20-21)? What a powerfully
blunt statement the apostle makes to Christians - he who does not
love his brother does not love God. The apostle is writing this
epistle so that the readers will know that they have eternal life
(I John 5:13) and so that their joy may be full in this knowledge
(I John 1:4). As the apostle works his way to this conclusion, he
makes other equally impressive statements concerning love for brethren.
In I John 3:10 we read: "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." Each individual
is either a child of God or a child of the devil. If we practice
the things which are right, as revealed in the word of God, we are
children of God. The practicing of righteousness includes loving
the brethren, and without love for the brethren it is impossible
to be a child of God.
To reinforce this point, John later says: "Beloved, let us love
one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born
of God and knows God" (I John 4:7). Who is it that is born of God?
It is those who love. The word love, as used by the apostle, is
that type which does good apart from emotion. Therefore the apostle
says: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). And as part
of God's commandments John says: "And this command we have from
Him: that he who loves God must love his brother" (I John 4:21).
In his epistle, John is very clear as to the love he is commanding
Christians to have for one another. In I John 3:14-19, 23 John says:
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. ... 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.
What great love we must have for the brethren wherein we know that
we have passed from death to life. If necessary, we must be willing
to lay down our life for a brother. Therefore, what should we hold
back from a brother in need? As Christ gave everything for us, are
we not taught to give everything to one another? As Paul intimates,
this is a teaching of Jesus during His earthly ministry. In the
last hours prior to His arrest, trials, beatings, and crucifixion,
Jesus says: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as
I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay
down one's life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever
I command you" (John 15:12-14).
As Jesus has laid down His life for us, we must also lay down our
life for Him. For some, this has meant physical death, but for everyone
this means death to the world and to sin. All must die to the world
to live with Christ having become a living sacrifice (Gal. 2:20;
Col. 3:1-4; Rom. 12:1-2). And, since Christ laid down His life for
us, he expects us to lay down our lives for each other. No, this
may not require physical death, but it does require us to serve
one another. Jesus teaches this lesson upon the occasion He washed
the disciples feet. Paul teaches this as a rule of love and says:
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use
liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve
one another" (Gal. 5:13).
Let us all give heed to the manner in which we treat everyone especially
our brethren in Christ. To punctuate this point, notice Jesus teaching
concerning love: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love
your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your
enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that
you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise
on the just and the unjust" (Matt. 5:43-45).
If we are to love our enemies to do good to them, how much more
should we love our brethren who have been redeemed by the precious
blood of Christ? And remember: "Love suffers long and is kind; love
does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does
not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks
no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things. Love never fails" (I Cor. 13:4-8).
As you examine your life and specifically your love for brethren
in Christ, answer these questions. Does my love for brethren show:
that I am a child of God or a child of the devil? that I have passed
from life to death? that I love God? that I have eternal life?