Summary: Five reasons why loving each other is so important to God.
Things aren’t always what they first appear to be. During my first few years as the pastor of teaching here at LBF Church I got a phone call from a guy identifying himself as a Navy Chaplain. He told me that a guy recent discharge from the Navy’s child had died under tragic circumstances while he was at sea on an aircraft carrier. He told me that this guy and his wife were in Upland and that they didn’t have a home church, so could I please offer some pastoral support. I said that I’d be glad to, and I called the number the chaplain gave me. That led to a meeting with this guy and his wife, as they explained their terrible tragic circumstances, their need for a church home to support them, and for some cash to help with their immediate needs. I did something we never do here at the church and I have them cash...and no sooner was the check cashed and they disappeared.
I realized that I’d been part of an elaborate con, that the guy who called wasn’t a Navy Chaplain at all, that this family hadn’t lost their son, but that this was part of a scheme they did to get money from local churches.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. In fact, this is also true in the spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ, that things aren’t always what they appear to be. The Christians John was writing do back in the first century were undergoing a terrible church split. The basis of the church split was over who Jesus was, and it seemed that every week they met there were fewer people, because more and more former church members were abandoning the church and the Christian life for unbiblical and false ideas about Jesus Christ and the spiritual journey. We’ve seen that in the spiritual journey things aren’t always what they appear to be as well. So far in 1 John we’ve seen the apostle John give his friends a few tests for the spiritual journey. The first test is belief in Jesus, and two weeks ago we talked about the need to develop doctrinal discernment about what any spiritual claim thinks about belief in Jesus Christ. We can understand the importance of this first test, to believe in Jesus Christ. After all, Christians believe that Jesus is God’s one and only Son, the one who came and lived the life we failed to live and who died the death we deserved to die in order to open up eternal life for us. Since Jesus Christ is central to God’s purposes in our generation, we can understand why believing in Jesus is so important. But the other big test John’s told us about is the test of our love for other followers of Jesus Christ.
Why does the Bible make such a big issue of Christians loving each other? Twenty-seven times the Bible commands Christians to love each other. Why couldn’t God just tell us to put up with each other, or to tolerate each other? Every church I know of, every pastor I talk to, struggles with this idea of Christians loving each other. It’s not that Christians don’t believe it, but it’s that it’s so difficult sometimes. Some churches simply give up on the idea because it seems too lofty, too unrealistic for modern people. Other churches pretend like they’re loving each other, but peel away the surface and you find the poison of bitterness and resentment, seeping out in gossip and slander.