Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister. That’s not from me. It’s from the Bible. 1 John 4:21. And it’s a command from God. Certainly, non-Christians might feel no obligation to obey it. But if we’re Christian, it’s not a suggestion. It’s not just a “nice” thing to think about. It’s a command! And there aren’t any exceptions to go with it. In case you’re wondering – or even if you’re not – that includes our “brothers and sisters” from another country. Again – Jesus gives no exceptions.
The full passage is this:
God’s Love and Ours
1Jn 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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.
If you’re Christian – really, truly a follower of Jesus, you cannot have any disagreement with this. If you do in fact, disagree with it, I have some news for you. You’re not a Christian in God’s eyes. More on that in a moment.
1Jn 4:13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God sounds so simple. Just say the magic words – Jesus is the son of God – and you’re Christian. Sorry – but that’s taking things from the English translation of God’s Word. That’s not what the New Testament really says. Not from the words Jesus used. See Search believe in Are we supposed to Believe in God, Believe God or Follow God? for more on that.
What Jesus actually said was about believing to the point where that belief drives what we do in our lives. As in:
Jas 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
For a more in-depth look at that verse, please see The problem of Good Deeds and Faith. You’ll see that if we show no evidence in our lives that God really is in us, and no indication that we act according to His will, then our faith is dead. In other words – it’s not real. It’s not there.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Uh Oh. This one is maybe getting too close to home for some. Perfect loves drives out fear. And yet, how many Christians choose to not love someone because of fear? How many Christians are afraid of people who are a different color, different nationality, different religion, or different background?
And let me be very explicit here – I’m including immigrants in this – front and center. How many Christians are afraid of immigrants? And vote accordingly. And act accordingly?
Maybe you’re thinking that brothers and sisters doesn’t have as broad a meaning as I’m saying? Think again. Here’s the definition of the Greek word that we translate as brothers and sisters – or in some translations only as brothers.
80 ἀδελφός [adelphos /ad·el·fos/] n m. From 1 (as a connective particle) and delphus (the womb); TDNT 1:144; TDNTA 22; GK 81; 346 occurrences; AV translates as “brother” 346 times. 1 a brother, whether born of the same two parents or only of the same father or mother. 2 having the same national ancestor, belonging to the same people, or countryman. 3 any fellow or man. 4 a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection. 5 an associate in employment or office. 6 brethren in Christ. 6A his brothers by blood. 6B all men. 6C apostles. 6D Christians, as those who are exalted to the same heavenly place. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
We don’t get to pick one of these for ourselves. And the Jewish way of interpreting scripture is to exclude only those definitions that are not possibly correct – and include everything else. I suspect that God’s choice, and His is the only one that matters, is “all of the above”. In other words – everyone. No exceptions. After all, remember what the response was when Jesus was asked, “who is my neighbor?”
Our neighbor, from what Jesus said, includes the foreigner that we hate the most:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
10:25-28 pp — Mt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-31
Lk 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Lk 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Lk 10:27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’”
Lk 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The expert in the law was doing well, right up to this point. The question for us is this – do we really want to put ourselves in the position of trying to explain to Jesus that we, as Christians, thought that immigrants are not our brothers and sisters – or our neighbors? I’m not going to go there.
Lk 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Lk 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Lk 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Lk 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Oops. Neighbor takes on a whole new meaning with Jesus. He turned it around and asked, not who was the questioner’s neighbor, but who was a neighbor to the person in need. All of a sudden, neighbor isn’t the person we associate with. Neighbor is the person who helps someone in need – even if we don’t know them and even if we hate them.
Sure – non-Christians do the same things. And yet, isn’t that part of the problem? We – Christians – are called to be different. And yet, many who claim to be Christian are right up there supporting, if not driving, the fear that should be driven out by God’s perfect love.
1Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Earlier, I wrote – If you’re Christian – really, truly a follower of Jesus, you cannot have any disagreement with this. If you do, in fact, disagree with it, I have some news for you. You’re not a Christian in God’s eyes. More on that in a moment.
Well, the moment is now.
Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister
By now, some of you are not happy with me. Upset at me. Some, even angry with me. I’ll tell you what though – your anger is misplaced. All I’m doing, if you even claim to be Christian, is reminding you of something you claim to believe. To you, what I’ve quoted from the Bible you claim to believe is God’s Word, which is also something you claim to believe.
You cannot pick and choose what to believe. Well, actually, you can. But God won’t. And you know that.
So when I say that maybe you’re not really a true Christian in God’s eyes – it’s not me who will determine if you are or are not a follower of Jesus. So don’t get mad at me. Thank me. Thank me for reminding you to take a look in the mirror. For reminding you of things that you already know – but may have forgotten, in fear.
And you also know it’s not me, because Jesus said this:
The Wise and Foolish Builders
7:24-27 pp — Lk 6:47-49
Mt 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Yes – actions – the things we do – they are important.
And just before that passage, Jesus also said this:
A Tree and Its Fruit
Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Again – actions. Again – the things we do. And the times when we let fear override love are some of the things we do.
Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Like what I wrote above – Jesus’ words are also directed at those who claim to be followers of His. Look at the second paragraph. Jesus isn’t talking to people who are just hanging around. Blending in with the crowd. No – these are people who by outward appearances, really are true followers.
But they aren’t. Even though they claim to know Jesus and do things in His name, Jesus says they aren’t. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!
Do you want to hear that?
If you’re not Christian – maybe you don’t care.
But if you think you’re Christian – that’s something to take very, very seriously. To me, this is the scariest thing in the Bible. To think that I’ve been following Jesus, and then have Him tell me to go away because He never knew me – that would be the worst possible scenario.
However, right up there with that, since I teach and write, would be to find out that someone who listens to me or reads my stuff would hear those words because I watered down the realities of what the Bible says. I don’t want to be in a position where I tell people that merely “saying” that Jesus is the Son of God is your ticket to Heaven. There’s nothing in the Bible that says saying those words is all that’s needed.
And if I did teach that, I also believe that I’d hear, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer! from Jesus. Why? Because I would have been leading people astray.
Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister. No exceptions.
So if you want to get mad at me, I’m OK with that. Because it’s not my message. It’s God’s message.
All I ask is that after you get mad at me, please look at yourself.
7:3-5 pp — Lk 6:41, 42
Mt 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Mt 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Yes, I’ve removed plenty of planks from my own eyes. More than I’d want to count.
All I’m asking, if you want to be following Jesus – is that you do the same. And try to get as close as we possibly can, to the point where our love is perfect – like God’s love. Where we love our brothers and sisters. All of them. No exceptions.
|↑1||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|