1 John 4:20-21
If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen…
We enter the family circle now. It has become a very large family, and is destined to become still larger, till it includes all the families of the earth. Whether large or small, there is one grand principle which is to flow through the hearts of all its members, and to constitute a bond which neither time nor eternity can dissolve. That one principle is mutual love. Nothing else can take its place. Nothing else can do its work.
I. It will be well for us to look a little carefully at THE PERSON FOR WHOM THIS LOVE IS CLAIMED — our brother. Our brother, in the New Testament, has a new and definite meaning. It is not our neighbour, as such. To a Jew, it was not his fellow Jew. Nor is it necessarily the son of our own father and mother. There may be many such sons whom, alas! we cannot regard in this high sense as our brothers. There are those who come nearer to us as Christians, and are endeared to us by stronger ties. The elements of the union between us, and which constitute them our brethren, are altogether peculiar. The first of these is faith in our common Saviour. From the moment that faith is exercised a new set of conditions spring up. We have parted company with the world, and shall soon find that we have forfeited its love and its sympathy. Then the faith which unites us to Christ unites us to all who are thus united to Him. And that irrespective of all external differences. Another of these elements is regeneration by the same Spirit. And now there opens before us another view of our subject, although necessarily glanced at already. Our Creator has become not only our God, but our Father. Further, our heavenly Father has embraced us all alike in the arms of His adopting grace.
II. We shall next have to enter into SOME OF THE REASONS WHY THIS LOVE IS REQUIRED. And we need hardly insist on the fact that all the reasons why we are called upon to love our neighbour obtain, and obtain with redoubled force, here. The ethics of the Second Table are not abrogated by the great law of brotherly love. Nay, those ethics are carried up to a higher plane, and enforced by sanctions of a higher order. Then He bases this precept on the deep ground of His own love to us. "As I have loved you." We can understand how He can have loved others. But us? There is the difficulty. Yet we have tits own word for it, and that ought to be enough; and most persuasive in its eloquence. Learn from this unique example of My love to you to love one another. My love to you has been unmerited, disinterested, self-sacrificing, all-enduring. Let your love to each other take this as its pattern. "Love one another as I have loved you." It will also be seen that the claim of our brother to our love is founded on our love to God. "And this commandment have we from Him, that He who loveth God, love his brother also." John, however, touches the deepest foundations of all for this demand in the tenth and eleventh verses of this same chapter. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
III. There must be SOME PRACTICAL METHODS AVAILABLE FOR THE UNEQUIVOCAL MANIFESTATION OF THIS BROTHERLY LOVE. Love to our brother is not a mere profession. Nor will this association be a mere formal and external thing; but we shall be led into real and intimate fellowship of heart and spirit with our brother. Readiness to sympathise with and help will, in like manner, present itself as an evidence and display of this love. Love can withhold nothing from its object. The love in question will at the same time lead to mutual charity and forbearance.
IV. A CURSORY GLANCE AT THE GREAT IMPORTANCE OF THE PRINCIPLE WHICH IT HAS BEEN OUR EARNEST DESIRE TO INCULCATE. And let us begin at home. We have a deep personal interest in this matter. Nothing tends more to promote our own happiness, profit, and usefulness than that love which we owe to our fellow Christians. It fills the heart with sunshine, if the Church is ever to become the power for good in the world which she was intended to be, this will be the secret and fountain of her strength. Beside and above all these considerations, the honour of our Divine Lord and Head is bound up with this matter. Nothing pleases Him so much as the love which should unite all His disciples together in one close but grand confraternity. Nothing can furnish so powerful a demonstration of the might and benignity of His truth. Nothing can present so worthy and influential an exhibition of His character.
Parallel VersesKJV: If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?