Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4, verse 20.
We’ve talked about thoughts similar to these before, back in verse 12 (No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us), verse 11 (Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another), verse 8 (Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love), and in verse 17 of chapter 3 (If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person).
But don’t you just love how the Apostle John pulls no punches in challenging with something new? He brings it, saying that if we don’t love our brothers and sisters, we are liars when we say we love God. He hits right at the heart of disingenuousness because, after all, can you really say you love God if you say one thing about someone but then say something different (about them) to a different audience? His words smash grudges, because we can’t love God truly if we hold something against someone who hurt us; God loves them unconditionally, too. We can’t love God if we are hypocrites, or if we are vain, or if we see others in need yet refuse to help.
Indeed, this verse hits at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to serve. Last weekend, my wife attended a women’s retreat whose theme was ‘serving.’ The group of 18 or so women studied Scripture, talked, (drank wine), shared experiences, and did service projects (for the conference center) together. All week she’s been sharing lessons she learned, and the biggest one is the simplest: Jesus serves us and she wants to model her entire life around doing that for others. It’s no stretch because she’s always been this way, more interested in giving than receiving, doing things for others instead of having them done for her (unless that involves me rubbing her neck, of course).
But that’s the central theme for all our lives. We show we love God when we let him re-mold our hearts to serve Him in all things. We share God’s love by doing for others: doing the dishes, yielding right of way, helping dig trenches, reviewing work, listening, not reacting, being a friend. All of these and so many more are ways to serve others, ways to show that we love our sisters and brothers. It’s nothing new: it’s how Jesus lived His life here. We’ve seen it before. Let’s do it today. We’re liars if we don’t.
Jesus, Lord, let me serve You today by helping others, by serving as You would.