“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
~1 John 4:20 (NRSV).
Those who claim they love God, yet via their actions they hate anything related intrinsically to the people right before them, are proven liars in this passage.
This passage highlights the intrinsic action-oriented faith we are compelled by within the circles of Christianity. Saved by faith by the grace of God we might be, but if we ‘convert’ our faith into reasons for blaspheming the holy God by hating our peers we dash the value of our salvation against the wall.
There is a challenge before the Christian.
Do they hate murderers, rapists, thieves—and shudder to put them into the same bracket—homosexuals, Muslims, divorced people, drug addicts, alcoholics etc, or even opposing sporting teams and political parties? In other words, the challenge before the person calling Christ their Saviour and God is this: can they love those mentioned just now—those loved by God as much as any believer is—like God does?
This is the challenge we must grapple with in love; we can only succeed these ways with God i.e. through God’s love. If we’re the slightest bit ambivalent towards anyone, we’re best to repent of it to God, seeking his help to love better.
When we let it in, hate becomes an insidious character flaw that slips more continually under our guards, to our very own spiritual demise. Relational hate is an atrocious pride-engineered millstone for us.
I’ve loved Rick Warren’s quote for some time. He said words to the effect, “Christians are not allowed to not love.”
It’s so poignant. Where we fail to love people we fail to show we really love God. The love of God—in these times—is not in us via our acts. Love is thus action-oriented. So, whoever came up with faith being a grace-alone venture that required not a single response from us but an initial “Yes” to Jesus, are sorely mistaken. Best they pore over their Bibles for some time longer.
What amazes me are some that insist on having a right of judging and condemning people when these people themselves stand ignorantly self condemned in their very acts—read, for instance, Matthew 7:1-6; 21-23. This principle is littered throughout the biblical corpus.
The biggest tests we ever face in our belief for God is how well (or not) we manage our horizontal relationships i.e. with people. We can never come intimately close to a right vertical relationship with God when our horizontal relationships with (any) people are in disarray, so far as it depends on us. (Of course, when we’ve done everything we can and we continue to love people who might despise us for some reason, we’re on God’s right track.)
We hold back our forgiveness to our peril.
Likewise, any hate in our hearts backfires so assuredly back through us; the saddest thing to see is the pride that never sees or feels this, and hence, never learns the grief it brings fundamentally to the heart of God.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.