1 John 4
7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.
9God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.
13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.
18Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. 19We love each other as a result of his loving us first.
20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? 21And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too. (1 John 4:7-21, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
“I love Jesus….I just don’t like His followers!”
Have you ever heard someone say something like this?
This sentiment, that Jesus is cool but his followers aren’t, has become widespread, especially among young adults (those classified as Millennials and Gen Z), who, according to Barna research, are leaving the church in record numbers.
What is going on?
There are a number of reasons why young people are leaving the church. According to Barna, some of the reasons include: seeing the church as too shallow, experiencing the church as being over-protective and fearful of everything outside the church, seeing the church as not being in touch with real-world problems, and viewing the church as being antagonistic toward science.
Whatever the reasons that might cause a person to step away from the church, is it legitimate to “love Jesus, but not His followers”?
Not according to John.
In my last post, I shared some thoughts from 1 John chapters 2 and 3, in which the author shared that one of the marks of the God-follower is love for one another, specifically, love for other Christians.
This issue of loving one another must be a big deal to John because in the next chapter, he once again exhorts his audience to love one another.
The reasons he gives in chapter 4 are as follows:
- God is love
- If we say that we are “in God”, then His love should be in us and it will be perfected (made complete) within us
- Hence, those who say that God is in them should be loving because God IS love.
This line of reasoning lays the foundation for John’s final point, in which he states:
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?
The bottom line is that one cannot claim to love God (or Jesus) but hate His followers. It’s an oxymoron because God IS love and therefore, if we love God, we will love His children (other believers).
Additionally, John points out, we’ve been commanded to love our Christian brothers and sisters.
So the idea that we can love God (or Jesus) but no love his followers doesn’t compute and reflects a fundamental lack of awareness of what the Christian life is all about.
We are living in perilous and confusing times. Unfortunately, churches aren’t always as reflective of Jesus as we might like. Sin has a way of ruining our expectations, unfortunately.
But the solution isn’t to bail on Christ’s church because it is filled with sinners who are a constant reminder of our need for Jesus in the first place.
As difficult as it may be, the solution is to find some other Christ followers and begin to live out the command to love one another in the context of an authentic community.
If this kind of community doesn’t exist then there is nothing stopping you from creating that kind of community.
One of the interesting arguments for the triune nature of God is the fact that He is a God of love and that His loving nature has been expressed for eternity in the context of a trinity of relationships. In other words, if the nature of the Godhead is singular, how would it be possible for love to be expressed as there would be no object for that love?
A similar line of reasoning could be expressed here. If a fundamental characteristic of the Christian life and knowing God is loving one another, how can that love be expressed in isolation?
Hence, the idea that one can love Jesus but hate His followers or one can love Jesus without being a part of a church community is not biblical. This issue is so important that John spends a major portion of his first epistle reinforcing this concept that Christians are to love one another….and that’s not possible if we are not in community with them.
Do you know some people who claim to still be Christians but no longer are connected to a church? If so, what are the reasons given for why church is no longer a part of their Christian experience?
What response would you give to someone who says they love Jesus but they cannot be a part of His church because of all the hypocrites and scandals they see in the church?
How can the church address those who say that the church is either not concerned with or is not effective in dealing with real-world problems?
What steps can you (or a person you’re advising) take to be a part of the kind of community where the command to love one another can be freely expressed?
Original Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash (edited photo by Dave Lowe)