” If anyone says ‘ I love God’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister 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 and sister.” – 1 John 4:20-21 CSB
During the summer, I decided to go on a little shopping spree to purchase a few decorative items for my home. This little journey took me straight to one of North America’s megastores: Walmart. There were items everywhere as there usually is at Walmart but on a shelve, a little box caught my attention. It was not so much the box itself that intrigued me, rather the image on the box revealing a beautiful wall decor, which I then purchased to place on my bedroom wall. After sticking the decor on the wall, I took a few steps back to admire the finished product. It read: Love Always. This was a wonderful reminder that I needed every single day.
One morning, as I slowly woke up and sat on my bed, my eyes fell on the writing as it usually did. Yet, this time, I felt as if something was missing between the two words. I began to talk with God and asked him curiously “Lord, what is missing here? I feel as if something is missing.” And with a soft and gentle voice that I did not expect so quickly, God whispered three words in my ears: Love Sacrifices Always. What a difference just one word can make!
Indeed, true and sincere love sacrifices always. God is love and in His love, He revealed that love and sacrifice go hand in hand. This, He demonstrated not in words only but in actions at the cross. True and pure love is a sacrificial kind of love. It is willing to give up anything, all and everything for others. True love hung on a cross while the world laughed him to scorn. Not only is God love but He loved us in such powerful way that He was willing to forsake all for our sake.
” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (ESV)
Many people, including you I am sure, know John 3:16 yet few know 1 John 3:16:
“This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (CSB)
Both verses reveal what true love is about: loving others and loving through sacrifices. A love that has never known to sacrifice is therefore not true love. True love is not only willing to sacrifice but it is also willing to lay down its life for brothers and sisters in the faith. It is one thing to say that we love other believers; it is another to demonstrate it. Sacrifice occurs when:
- I am willing to give my life for others.
- I give my precious time to help a brother or sister when I could be doing something else.
- I choose to give monetarily to a brother or sister in need when I could have purchased something I desired or even more so paid a bill.
- I do anything that I could consider inconvenient but do it anyway.
- I put my wants and needs aside for a moment to meet the needs of others.
Love must be our first and highest calling. There is no priority greater than this. The Bible does not only encourage us to love, but it commands it:
“And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister”- 1 John 4:21
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”- John 13:35
There is no greater calling than loving others. Jesus set the example not only through the cross but also in his daily life while on earth. Among the people, he loved even the worst sinner, showing compassion to many including the adulteress woman and Zaccheus, healing those who were sick, meeting other people’s needs and being willing to serve rather than be served. His love overflowed to humanity and to his friends as he wept the death of Lazarus. His tears came from a place of love and compassion.
Likewise, we are called to love. The apostle Paul puts it remarkably well as he states: “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2 CSB
The Complete Jewish Bible translation says ” but if I lack love, I am nothing”. Notice how the author does not say I have nothing but AM nothing. Love is not simply what we do or do not do. Love is who we are. As children of God, a God who IS love, and as we are made in His image, we are to be love also. His character must become our character and love is the very essence of who God is. And therefore, so should we be.
As much as the Bible reminds us to love, it reminds us also that we cannot claim to love God if we do not love his family. God created for himself a body of believers, children who are our brothers and sisters: a spiritual family. This family is important if not even more important than our earthly family as Pastor Rick Warren reminds us. In the Purpose Driven Life, he reminds us that our spiritual family will last forever as opposed to our physical family.
“Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death. On the other hand, our spiritual family- our relationship with other believers – will continue throughout eternity”.
For this reason, God desires that we would love one another. Our relationship is not restricted to here on earth but will last for eternity when we are united with our Savior in the flesh and spirit. So should we not learn to get along here if we are meant to do life together forever?
How we love one another is also a reflection of our love for God. If we truly love God, we must also love one another. In fact, John the apostle of love, firmly and boldly declares that we are liars if we claim to love God but do not love one another. Indeed, how can we ever claim to love God whom we have not seen in the flesh if we are unable to love our brothers and sisters standing right beside us? Just as in physical families, we will have disagreements with our spiritual family, and even moments of bickering. We can expect that. However, this should not prevent us from making every effort to love our family. Just as we are imperfect, our brothers and sisters are imperfect. Yet, we can still love each other in the midst of our imperfections.
Friend, if you have trouble loving your brothers and sisters, that’s okay. Love them anyway. Pray for them anyway. Help them anyway. Give to them anyway. Do something good for them anyway. Do something for them that they do not deserve anyway. Remember that you too did not deserve the sacrifice of Jesus and much less his love, yet he gave it anyway. This indeed is true love and this love never fails.
Dear God, you are who a God of love, you are love. Teach me how to love others the way that you love. Teach me how to love not just when it is convenient for me but when it’s not. Show me how to sacrifice myself for others and to love my brothers and sisters with their imperfections just as I am imperfect. Teach me how to love sacrificially not just my family and friends but especially those who seem undeserving to me. Thank you for reminding me that I took did not deserve your love but you gave it freely anyway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 3:16-18
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 John 4:7-12