We were talking about the importance of love, and our starting point was from the writings of John, the Apostle of Love.

There is a teaching going around, and sadly it features on the sites discussed on this blog, which claims there is something wrong with promoting Jesus’ words that said we should love the Lord our God with all our mind, soul and being, and that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.

This teaching has been condensed by some churches in their mission statement as ‘Love God, Love People’, but the claim is made that this is law and not the gospel.

The truth is that this theme of loving God and loving our neighbour runs throughout the New Testament, and is the basis of the gospel. We love because God first loved us. We love who? We love God. We love others. Love comes to us through our relationship with God, and we love.

When we receive Christ we receive the love of God within because God is love, therefore we are able to love with His agapé love – the unconditional love that reaches out to the lost and dying world with the good news that Jesus has paid the price of their sin, and, through God’s grace, those who repent and turn to Him through faith in Jesus Christ will receive the free gift of eternal life.

Love enters our lives

They will be born of the Spirit – born from above – born again. Love will enter their lives because the Spirit of God, who is love, will be with them, in them, and upon them. This is the gospel. God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that we would not perish but have everlasting life. We didn’t deserve this love, but, because God is love, that love was granted anyway, despite who we are.

You cannot separate the gospel from the love of God any more than you can separate it from His grace, or His mercy.

John goes on to teach believers on the importance of love.

1 John 4:17-21 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. 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.

As He is so are we in this world. God is love. We are as He is. How do we know we are as He is? We know through our love that comes from Him. The proof that God is in our lives is the love that will be displayed by our words and deeds.

We do not fear judgement because we know we are His. We are already judged, and delivered, and made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. We are released from sin. We are forgiven. We are justified – guilt free. Therefore we do not fear judgment. We are loved and love is in us because we have received Christ.

How do we know? Because we love God and we love the brethren. Love is the litmus test for our relationship with God.

Jesus specified that the Law and the Prophets were defined by love for God and love for our neighbour. Now we do not live under the Law, but we live by the Spirit, and the Spirit is love, just as the Father is love, and the Son is love. There is no separation. The Godhead is One. God is love. Therefore the same principles apply – we demonstrate the truth when we love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.

John says that if we say we love God but hate our brother we are liars.

That is a very strong statement. Here John brings Jesus’ two love commandments into the New Testament and confirms them when he says, “He who loves God must love his brother also.” We cannot say we love God if we do not love our brother in Christ.

The love test

We cannot get away with saying we love God but we despise our brethren. We cannot hate other members of the Body of Christ and expect to be able to claim we love God. The proof that we love God is in our love for the brethren.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

So here we see we are instructed to keep the commandments. What are the commandments? The very same new commandments given by Christ that we should love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. He compounds this by saying that we know we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments. So he says the same thing in reverse. Love for God is exhibited when we love people.

The gospel of love

There is no escaping this. It is repeated as a concept throughout the New Testament. Love for God and love for people is a profound part of the gospel. We go out and preach the gospel to the fallen world because we have love for the lost, despite their fallen state, and this love comes because we have love for the Father. We love Him so much that we go out and make disciples regardless of the potential hardships.

In other words, we bring children into the Father’s family, because to become disciples they must first be born again – born into the family of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

And we show our love for the Father when we show love for those who are born of God. How are they born of God? Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This tells us that the new commandments given by Jesus are the very framework for the gospel. They were the basis for the Mosaic Law, but they are carried over into the new covenant as the essence of the gospel. Love is the eternal quality that forms the motive for seeing people saved, delivered, healed and restored to the Father. God’s love, that is, but God’s love released through His sons and daughters into a needy world.

Love is also a key evidence that we are alive in God. If we show love towards our brothers and sisters we know we have passed form death into life, but if we do not love our brother or sister in Christ we are walking dead-men.

1 John 3:14-16 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

He who does not love his brother abides in death. This is very serious talk. Love is so important to us. If we are truly in Christ we know that love will be shown, and that love will cover a multitude of sins, not to condone sin, or encourage sin, but win our wayward brethren back to the Lord if need be.

Serious charges

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. This is such a strong statement. We have to be continually checking our own spirit and attitude towards other people, especially in the Body of Christ, whether they share the same doctrinal stance as we do or not, because John here, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has elevated the condition of hate towards another believer to the status of murder.

And if a murderer, John says, then there is no eternal life in him.

This is why love counts. The Word is clear on it. We have to seek God and examine ourselves to ensure that we do not allow ourselves the slightest bit of hatred towards those who are in the Body, no matter how thin the thread of their connection might seem.

We have to walk in love, not to allow other Christians the false luxury of being sinful, but to ensure that we keep ourselves unspotted from the world through falling into the trap of despising people because their doctrine seems unsound, or their faith seems weak, or their commitment is apparently threadbare.

There was a time when none of us had doctrine. When we were first saved, ignorant of all doctrine, we were just as much in Christ as the most learned, but knew nothing except God’s great love for us. That is the simplicity of the gospel. Why do we place added burdens on others for not being at the same place we think ourselves to be?

We are told to lift those who are weak in the faith, and to do all we can to steer them to stronger faith, to rededication, to restoration, and to repentance if need be, and to do this through our own lifestyle and words in Christ as good examples. We can have all knowledge, Paul says, but if we do not have love our knowledge is worth nothing.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

Love gives all to bring people back to God, not to repel them or reject them. God, in His great love and mercy, did not reject us. He came for us regardless of our condition. How much more should our ministry of love be restorative and not judgmental, critical or condemning?

God is love.