When you stand before the judgment seat of God and He asks you if you love Him, how will you respond? Oh, I know what you’ll say. You will say the same thing I will, “Yes!” But as with so many things, there is a catch. God will look for evidence of your claim.
John tells us that the evidence of our love for God is in our love for others. “...and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” But what does this love for others look like? It does not suffice for words, but a certain quality of action.
First of all, John tells us that loving others as we ought to is loving them as God has loved us.
In I John 4:7 we are called to love one another. And right away we are told that the source of this love is God’s love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…” But the verses that immediately follow are crucial. The love with which we are called to love others, the love that comes from God, is demonstrated in a particular way: It is selfless, sacrificial, and costly. “By this the love of God was manifest in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world… that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
By itself, the description of God’s love we are given here tells us that the love we are to show others is a unique kind of love. The Greek word for love here is agape. This love is not sexual, it’s not emotional. This love transcends natural affections. It’s a love that C.S. Lewis calls “an affair of the will.”
In Mark 12:31 Jesus tells us that loving others as we ought to is loving them as we love ourselves.
In citing the Great Commandant, Jesus said. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What is it about loving ourselves that can instruct us in how we love others? Like you, your neighbor is made in the image of God (Malachi 2:10); he is one for whom Christ died (Romans 5:6); he has hopes and dreams, fears and worries. He is anxious for his health; he is afraid he might lose his job; he is concerned about his family; he wants to make friends. No one of us is any more worthy of God’s love than another.
As disciples of Jesus, as far as we are concerned, the love of God is to be visible, understandable, and accessible in our lives. Our mission begins with what is going on in our own hearts. As we saw in the sermon last Sunday, the question we must first concern ourselves with is not, “Who am I supposed to love?” But, “Am I a person of love?” It’s not about, “What kind of person they are,” but “what kind of person I am.” What kind of person am I when I am mistreated? What kind of person am I when I am inconvenienced? What kind of person am I when things don’t go my way?
Is it hard? Yes. It requires the will! But loving others is not just about loving others. In loving others, we learn to love God. Just as love for God influences our love for others, our love for others impacts our love for God. Martin Luther once has said, “God knew we would not know how to love Him, so He gave us each other.”
Our love for God is proved in our love for others. I once heard someone say, “We love God as much as we love the person we like the least.” It’s just how it is. The people who need love the most are often the ones who we find least loveable. Until we learn to love those we don’t want to love, our love for God will be limited—if not altogether counterfeit.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me love you more that I might grow in my love for others. Help me love others more that I might grow in my love for you.