“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20-21
It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about people; we tend to treat people we don’t know better that than we treat those we do know. In fact, you could almost make a mathematical formula to compare the relationship. It would be stated something like this: There’s an inverse relationship between how well a person knows another person and how well they treat them.
Why do we tend to treat strangers better than we treat family members we claim to love? Why is it always our best and closest friends that get to experience the worst we have to offer the world?
Some have theorized that we do this because it’s with family and close friends that we feel safest so it’s with them that we actually let down our guards and take off our masks. So it’s not just that they’re getting us at our most disrespectful and unkind, they’re getting us when we’re most real.
It seems a little crazy to me that we would risk harming or possibly losing the people and relationships we value and rely on the most with our most uncensored behavior and yet take such great care to not offend someone we don’t depend on and may never see again.
I’m not suggesting that we start treating strangers like garbage and start wearing masks of false courtesy around our families. I just think it would make much more sense if when it came to our family and closest friends we would find a way to be real and vulnerable and uncensored and still courteous, thoughtful and respectful. It just seems that those we love best should get the best from us and that’s a combination of the genuine openness and candor, and gentleness and loving kindness.
I think the apostle John was touching on something like this when he wrote today’s focus text. He asks a good question; how can we say we love God, whom we’ve never seen, when he hate our brother, whom we have seen?
The Greek word for “hate” literally means: to love less. So what John’s really saying is that we can’t love God any better than the person to whom we give the least amount of love.
Every minute of every day is another opportunity to demonstrate love. And every person we encounter, whether it’s the first time or the millionth, is God giving us another person to show love. The disciple Matthew records Jesus saying that when we love another we’re loving him. So, we may not have seen God but we have seen the one he sent for us to love in his place.