By Stan Brown
I John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Put your action where your mouth is. In the previous verses John had extolled love for one another. Now, he gets down to the nitty-gritty as he says “prove it”. The outward demonstration of our love for God is not words but actions of love. One might say that love is a verb rather than a noun. Just as love is action rather than words, it is also action rather feeling. John shoots straight as he declares that those who claim love for God and cannot even love their sisters and brothers are in fact “liars".
So, I say “I love God” (and I may also declare that I love all the rest of His children), yet I ignore their real needs while I am quick to condemn their actions as I extol my own. The only logical conclusion is that I do not love God. I may be His child but I have no idea what it means to love Him. Remember the required action of love includes not only those brothers and sisters who are loveable but those who are unlovable as well. After all, I am the recipient of God’s love. If God loves me, I can love others.
It is true that John is emphasizing love for fellow believers here. After all, love begins at home. We learn to love by loving our spiritual brothers and sisters. In loving each other we demonstrate love to the world because it is this testimony that shows the world the truth of the message. We do serious harm to the message of the Gospel when we fail to love each other. Although John stresses love for each other, he in no way denies that we must also love everyone else in the world. Such a statement would be pure folly. After all, when the Jewish lawyer asks the question “who is my neighbor?”, Jesus responds with the parable of “The Good Samaritan”. In effect, he says that whoever is in need is my neighbor.
So, John continues his attack on what he sees as a failure to love with a down to earth statement. He attacks this practice as patently ridiculous. He declares, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. Based on the fact that we live in a physical world in which everything we do and say is colored by the physical, a paraphrase of that statement might be; “Are you nuts? Look around! You have never even seen God yet you make the easy declaration that you love Him as you think no one will be able to call you on it. But wait a minute! You have all these brothers and sisters in need around you whom you continually ignore and you can see them. Their needs are continually before you. You have the resources to help and you ignore them. You claim love for God. Your deeds proclaim that you are a LIAR!
This verse rests on the great foundation of our Lord’s depiction of His commandments as He says, Matt. 22:37-39 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ (Matt. 22:37-39).
Let us love one another!!!