Love for God is the new “normal” for the child of God. In fact, “love” is at the very heart of who we become when we are adopted into the family of God.
How can you tell is someone loves God?
- Is it by their bumper sticker?
- Is it by owning a truly huge Bible?
- Is it evidenced by wearing one of those over-the-top Christian T shirts?
We all know those are poor indications of genuine love for God! 1 John proclaims that love for Jesus expresses itself through love for others. In 1 John 4:15-17, John presents the idea of abiding in love and God’s love being perfected in us. Take a look at our passage:
“ 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”
The idea of this passage is pretty simple. Those who follow a loving God are transformed into people who love others like God loves us. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” This love is more than a mindset. It’s not ethereal. It’s something that turns into real, tangible actions.
My main point in this post comes from theologian John Stott. He says, “Every claim to love God is a delusion if it is not accompanied by unselfish and practical love for our brothers and sisters.”
Our love for others is based on God’s love for us. Skip down to verse 19. It says, “ 19 We love because he first loved us.”
The word “Love” is a little convoluted in our culture. We say that we love ice cream and we love our car and we love puppies and we love our spouse and we love the Diamondbacks and we love God. It might be helpful to give a clear definition of the word “love” as it is was meant to be understood in 1 John.
Over the last few year, we have defined love in this simple way: Love is acting in the best interest of others. A type of love that truly and unselfishly seeks the best interest of another is not natural, but it’s evidence that God is perfecting love in a person’s heart. Being a person who loves is an evidence of God’s grace and proof that a person is really is a child of a God. (It’s better proof than a T shirt!)
Take a look at Verse 20: 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
God’s love is displayed in our lives whenever we choose to love one another in intentional, self-less and sacrificial ways. John doesn’t beat around the bush. His statement in this verse is very clear: If a man says that he loves God, but his behavior contradicts what he says, then John says that man is a liar. This verse brings us back to our main point:
“Every claim to love God is a delusion if it is not accompanied by unselfish and practical love for our brothers and sisters.”
The idea that you could love God without loving your brothers and sisters is a SOCIAL BLACK LIE. In fact there are 3 Black lies that John talks about in this book: The moral black lie, the doctrinal black lie and the social black lie. Let me explain…
- The Moral Black Lie: A belief that you can love God and continue to live in sin. If someone claims to have fellowship with God, and yet they walk in darkness, then they believe a lie about their relationship with God
- I John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
- 1 John 2:4, “4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…”
- The Doctrinal Black Lie: A belief that you can love God without loving Jesus. If someone claims to follow God the Father and yet they deny that Jesus is the Christ (or the Messiah), then they are not followers of God the Father.
- 1 John 2:21-23, “21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
- The Social Black Lie: A belief that you can love God without loving others. If someone claims to love God, but they hate their brothers, then they don’t really love God.
- I John 4:20 says, “20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
John says here that it is absurd to think that a person could love God, who he has never seen, if he cannot love a person who he can see. If we fail in the tangible task (of loving our brothers) then it is ridiculous to claim success in the less tangible task (of loving God) – especially when the way that we prove our love for God is by loving other people. Look at verse 21
21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
John Stott: “Every claim to love God is a delusion if it is not accompanied by unselfish and practical love for our brothers and sisters.”
Only by the grace of God, is genuine, self-less love even a possibility. So if I find myself:
- Loving someone who is not otherwise lovable
- Praying for someone who has been bad-mouthing me
- Helping someone who has been trying to harm me
If I find myself doing those kinds of things, then it is further evidence that I am being controlled by a loving God and not by my own flesh. People who love God, love other people – even when they don’t deserve it! When the Holy Spirit is in control, I am being controlled by a God who is love and who – by nature – constantly does loving things for undeserving people.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself said to “love your enemies” and to “bless those that curse you” and to “do good to those who hate you” and to “pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.” Jesus asked in Matthew 5:46, “46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
He’s telling us to love others like God loves us. How can we do that? We can only love the way God loves if He is dwelling within us. Then if we see God’s love pouring out of us, it gives us increased confidence that we really are the sons and daughters of God.