Summary: We are to respond to God's love by abiding in God’s love, as we do, He reproduces His love in us. This love is not in the abstract. We are to love God & His children through attitude & action. We love God & His children by keeping God's commandments.
1 JOHN 4:20, 21; 5:1-3 [LIFE, LIGHT & LOVE SERIES]
THE OBJECTS OF OUR LOVE
A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with a class of five and six year olds. After explaining to the children what honoring their Fathers and Mothers meant, and exploring a few practical ways the kids could do that, she decided to raise another related question, "Children," asked the teacher, "is there a commandment in Scripture that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"
A little boy in the front row instantly raised his hand. "Yes, Michael," said the pleased teacher, "What does God command us about how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat the little boy earnestly answered, "Thou shall not kill,"
This funny, little fella touches on some truth doesn’t he? Developing loving relationships is tough. We all need special help, and God gives it.
The Apostle has just announced the reason we can love in verse 19. “We love because He first loved us.” We are to respond to God's love by abiding in God’s love, as we do, He reproduces His love in us. This love is not in the abstract. We are to love God and His children through attitude and action. We love God and His children by keeping God's commandments (CIT). If we keep God's Word because we love Him, His commandments are not burdensome but bring guidance, protection, and blessing.
I. LOVE THE SEEN BROTHER, 4:20-21.
II. LOVE OBEYS THE WORD, 5:1-3.
What we have here is a warning against pretending. Some pretend to love God by loving Him in theory but not loving those being recreated in His image. Verse 20 teaches that anyone who claims to love God, yet hates his Christian brother is a liar or makes a false claim. “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.”
This is not saying that we are to love the brethren more than God. No, God is the supreme object of our highest, most ardent affections. He must be loved more than anyone our eyes can light upon, for the ordering of the two great commandments is to be obeyed, in that we are to love God first and foremost.
What God is saying here is that if you fail in duties that are right before your eyes and should be easy, how do you expect to perform duties that are out of sight and on a higher plane. Your brother is always before you and you can see him and observe his need for love in word and deed. God being unseen or unobservable could fall into the category out of sight, out of mind. Therefore if we are not mindful of loving our fellow man whom we see, how can we say we love God who is unseen? If the seen is not loved, don't lie to yourself and say you love the unseen. It is an impossibility. Love is not nebulas, it must have an object. If it fails to reach out to the nearer object, the brethren, it will never reach the higher object, God. Love that cannot reach the next pew will not reach heaven.
God’s command in verse 21 is to join together the two kinds of love, love for God and love for one’s brother. “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
The Apostle strengthens his teaching for the absolute necessity of loving the brethren (the seventh time he has taught it in this short letter) by the fact that God has commanded that all who love Him are to love their brethren. John agrees with Paul who says "The whole law is fulfilled in one word which is, You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal. 5:14).
The commandment is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, Lev. 19:18, & Luke 10:27. Some may say that they can fulfill their obligation by loving God but you cannot authentically love God and not love the brother being recreated into God's image. People who say they are devoted to Christ often have a remarkably un-Christian attitude towards the people of Christ. Yet refusal to love the brethren blocks the way to loving God. God does not want His vagueness [for those who have not discovered Him in life, in His Word and by His Spirit] to allow people to deceive or lie to themselves. They must prove their love for Him by loving the brethren. Love for God expresses itself in obedience to God's commandments. Loving the brethren is the second most important commandment in Scripture.