“The person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen.” 1 John 4:20 (NLT)
We find ourselves in another election year and the rhetoric is heating up. One of the things that has been a part of the political arena since I have been voting is partisanship. In my experience partisanship can be good, especially when it means having strongly held convictions about something. However, partisanship has become more about tearing down the person who may believe differently and less about the belief itself. Those who disagree with us are idiots, not intelligent, or just plain wrong. We have lost the art of disagreeing with someone’s belief without disliking them completely.
I know I have friends who I disagree with on issues and beliefs. We can have open and honest discussions, and even debate, about our strongly held beliefs. I also know that I still love my friends dearly. You may be surprised to know, or maybe not, that not all United Methodist pastors have the same political beliefs. So it is increasingly more important to cultivate the art of discussion within the context of a loving relationship. We are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbor, to love others. We need to be cultivating our ability to obey this command.
Obeying this command is both a matter of the heart and head. Our motivations and intentions are important when considering loving others. Most people love others because of what the other person has to offer them. Disciples of Jesus love others because God loves others. This is a matter of the heart. If we love God, the first and greatest command, then we will have a heart for others. If we love ourselves we will have a heart for our own needs. Our actions follow our beliefs. This is a matter of the head. If we say we believe that we should love others, we need to make the decision to love them. Truly loving others happens when our heart and our head are radically united.
We are all keenly aware that loving others is far easier when we like the other we are called to love. This is precisely why John writes that disciples who do not love other disciples can’t love God. We serve a God of selfless reconciliation. God loves us while we were yet sinners, that proves God’s love for us. We are commanded to love our neighbors. The ones we like and the ones we don’t like. The ones who believe like us and the ones who do not. The ones who treat us well and the ones who treat us horribly. We are called to love others. The one who does not love others cannot love God.
In 1 John 4:19 John writes, “We love each other because he loved us first.” God loves us and demonstrated that love to us through his only Son, Jesus Christ. This is the love that we are to demonstrate to all others in our life. A selfless, sacrificial love for others. This is the 5th mark of a Methodist.
I look forward to sharing more about this with you in worship this week. Keep loving others. Can’t wait to see you in church!