Have you ever felt slightly beat up after reading something in God’s Word? Sometimes when I feel like I’ve been an A+ Christian, I read something that exposes the ungodly things in me that I’ve shoved way down out of sight. And it hurts. It hurts my pride knowing that I’m still struggling.
This passage is one of those:
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. … If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: the one who loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:7-8,20-21
When I read those words for the millionth time one day last week, I was overwhelmed with conviction. Naturally, I began to argue with the Spirit who was trying to teach me: “I do love. I love God with a love I’ve never experienced before, one so deep I don’t fully understand it. I fail constantly, I fall into the same things over and over, yes, but I can honestly say that I yearn to please God with my life. I want to know more about Him. I want to hear His voice. I want to praise Him without inhibition. I love my God so deeply. I can’t even think about not knowing Him.”
But the voice of God stopped me in my tracks: “But you do not love others the way I’m asking you to. And if you don’t love them, then you don’t love Me.”
I’m speechless. I can’t argue because I know it’s true. It’s so easy to love God. He’s good. He’s faithful. He offers grace to the most undeserving. How could I boast in something so logical, so natural? What I need to be striving for is showing real love to my family, my coworkers, those I admire and those I can’t in my own strength stand to be around; the poor, the wealthy, the tolerable and intolerable, seasoned Christians and those riding the fence—all of them. And not that fake “love” I’ve gotten so good at expressing. It’s got to be honest and as real as the love I have received from God.
I’m swallowing for the first time the fact that my relationship with God cannot be whole unless I love others the way I’m supposed to: The one who does not love does not know God. Loving others doesn’t just impact those I’m loving; it affects the most intimate and significant relationship I have. Truly loving others allows me to draw nearer to God—and that is the profound desire of my heart.