Where Are My Pants?
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:19-20
A few weeks back, my favorite sweatpants disappeared. I knew where I’d worn them last. I knew I didn’t come home pantless, and so they had to be in the house. I looked everywhere – or at least I claimed I had. This drove me nuts. For two weeks, I wandered the house, mourning my lost pants. I even asked my wife if she’d secretly taken them. One day, tired of my whining, she set out to search for them, finding them in about 30 seconds . . . in my pants drawer.
I was astounded. I was sure I’d looked there. I told her that I’d looked there. Did she believe I’d really looked for my pants in my pants drawer? No. The evidence to the contrary was in her hands. There was a part of me that wondered if she’d just secretly stashed them there a minute before, but I knew the truth – I honestly believed I’d looked in my pants drawer, but I had not. Somehow, I fooled myself into thinking something was true, that anyone else could see was not true.
It’s funny when it’s about my pants. In today’s passage though, John pointed out how we’re capable of a much graver self-deception. In it, he said that when we experience God’s love, that love must flow through us to those around us. We don’t get to pick whom we love. We were unlovable when God loved us. He’s forgiven us for more than we’ll have to ever forgive anyone else. So, we must love those whom he puts in our path, regardless of whether we feel they deserve love. John went so far as to say that our love for others is the proof of our love for God. If we say we love God, but we hate someone, then we don’t have God’s love in us. We may claim we’re living by faith, but if we hate our neighbors, we’re lying to ourselves.
If we take this seriously, this is terrifying as it may just disqualify a lot of us from something we’re convinced we have. If we claim to love God, but we hate those of a different political party, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, then we’re lying to ourselves. God is love. If we’ve truly experienced his love, that love must flow through us into the lives of those around us. If we claim to love God, but we hate our neighbors, we’re fooling ourselves.