Summary: How do we know if we really know God? We are on our 2nd test to help us look at ourselves and see how strong our relationship is with God. Do we love our neighbors?
How do we know if we really know God? We are on our 2nd test to help us look at ourselves and see how strong our relationship is with God. Do we love our neighbors?
If we criticize, grumble, gripe, backbite, ignore, neglect, curse, abuse, slander, hate, or mistreat our neighbors in any way, then we don’t know God. No matter what we may claim nor how loudly we claim it, we don’t love God if we don’t love our neighbors. That is the message in a nutshell.
There was a story in the papers years ago that occurred in Hamburg, Germany. The skeletal remains of a man were found in his apartment, sitting in front of a TV set, with Christmas lights twinkling nearby. But the lights were from a long past year. In fact, the man had been dead for five years. And nobody had missed him.
He was divorced and disabled, and had become obsessively reclusive. So the other tenants just went about their business. It was not until his bank account ran dry (From automatically paying his rent and utility bills) that his landlord investigated.
Could this happen to one of our church members? Would we notice someone’s absence? Would we investigate? This all coincides with the command we have to love our neighbor.
Loving others is a strong test of our knowledge of God. It saddens me when conflicts break out in the church and go unresolved. It saddens me when I hear things like, “I won’t go around them. I won’t look at them. I’ll sit somewhere else just to get away from them. I might even go to another church to get away.” We can tell whether or not we know God by testing our love for others. The test is an OLD COMMAND. It’s nothing new. Read verse 7.
One of the very first things that God said to man is this: Man must love his neighbor. (Lev. 19:18) Notice that John doesn’t just come right out in verse 7 and say that he is talking about love. He took a backdoor approach. Why do you think that was? He actually had a very good reason.
What John is about to tell everyone is new to them. It hadn’t been heard for some time. It would sound so new that the people would think it was something John made up. So he establishes the fact that it comes from days of old.
Then John seems to contradict what he just said. He just said in verse 7 the he wasn’t writing a new command. Then in verse 8 he says: READ. So it’s not only an old command but a new command. What’s so new about love? It’s not that love is such a new thing than it is the way Jesus told us to love. And here is our roadmap to loving our neighbor. Jesus Christ:
• Loved not only friends, but enemies.
• Loved not only good people, but bad people.
• Loved not only the righteous, but the sinner.
• Loved not only the acceptable, but the rejected.
• Loved not only the clean, but the dirty.
This is a totally new concept of love. We have always felt free to mistreat others, especially those who have mistreated us. We have always felt free to hate, strike back, hurt, ignore, neglect, criticize, be unkind, backbite, and retaliate.
But Jesus has shown us that we cannot mistreat people no matter what they have done, that we must love everyone no matter who they are. This is a big test for us all because the only way we can become children of God is to love even as God loves. And if we don’t love, then we don’t know God.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13: 34-35)
Jesus is telling us that the only way people can tell that we are His disciples is by our love for one another. I guarantee you that if anyone outside this church hears of bickering and fighting within this church, they won’t be visiting us. Why should they? They can get that kind of garbage in the world. They don’t need to come to church for it. This is exactly what John is saying is verse 8: “A new command; its truth is seen in Christ and you the true believers.” The person who truly follows God has the love of God in him.
Note something else about this new command. Verse 8 says that love is now made known by the true light that shines and erases the darkness. “The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” The darkness refers to man’s old idea of love; that he can retaliate against anyone who mistreats him. But Jesus, who is the light of the world, has shone forth the truth.