Do you love as Christ taught us to love?

1 John 2:7-11

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

The question that we can ask ourselves is do we really know God. If we really know God then we love our neighbor as Christ has taught us to love. Do you love your neighbor? In our world today there is very much an atmosphere of us versus them. The seniors vs. the millennial’s, the conservatives vs. the liberals, the republicans vs. the democrats, Isis vs. western civilization, Steeler fans vs. browns fans etc. The list can go on and on. The harsh reality is that the devil shares just enough truth in these matters to make each side think they are right and the other side is wrong. The devil shares just enough truth in these matters to fool us into helping further his agenda of divide and conquer.

When we lose our focus on God and place our focus on the world we will be pulled away from God and enter into false worship. Deuteronomy 5:32 tell us that “you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” Deuteronomy 28:14 reiterates the point “and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” We cannot set up for ourselves false idols in this world based on man’s ideologies, philosophies and agendas. These only bring about division and inherently lack love.

The supreme commandment is love. This is not new as John tells us. The new commandment that John does mention is Jesus Christ. Jesus gave love a new meaning. Jesus taught us to love not only your friends but your enemies. Love not only good people, but bad people. Love not only the righteous but the sinner. Love not only the accepted but the rejected. Love not only the clean but the dirty. Jesus tells us this clearly in Matthew 5:43-45

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

What makes this concept new is the fact that people have always felt free to mistreat others, especially those who they were mistreated by. People by nature are comfortable with ignoring, neglecting, criticizing, retaliating, hurting and hating. The new meaning of love that Jesus has taught shows us that we cannot mistreat anyone no matter what they have done or who they are.

Our Lord is teaching us that we only become a child of God by loving as God loves. If we do not love as Christ taught us it is because we do not truly know God. God is love! He so loved the whole world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. In John 13:34-35 Jesus states “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Our discipleship and our knowledge of God can be measured by whether or not we love one another. This is a command of God as taught by Christ and it is taught without any exception. Jesus did not say love only those who look like you, think like you, sound like you, act like you or worship like you. But what if an Isis soldier walked up to you and needs a helping hand? Could you love them as Christ would love them? Could you pray for them (not against them) as Christ taught us?

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I remember a Christian teacher telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?” “But years later,” Lewis continues, “it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.”

C.S. Lewis came to an understanding of the commandment of: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39). The thing that we have to come to grips with is that no matter the reason we might have for feeling the way we do, if it is not love, it is not love. Love is love, it is not mistreatment and it is not hate. It is also not being critical, grumbling, slandering, neglecting or abusing another. Do we love as Christ has taught us? Do we really know God?

In Jesus’s name I pray that we do!

(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)