“Because We Love The Brethren”

We had a lovely first day of the Feast yesterday. Our little group is live-streaming from Pacific Church of God, and the sermon yesterday was excellent. Mr. Railston’s main theme was using the Feast to make a positive difference in the lives of other people, instead of focusing on “what can I do for me this Feast?” Our focus should be on rejoicing with others and giving them reason to rejoice, not simply making ourselves happy.

There were two scriptures that particularly stood out to me. In a discussion of Matt. 22:35-40, Mr. Railston pointed out that the first great commandment, loving God, could be done in isolation. The second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself, must be fulfilled in the presence of other people. And here’s the second scripture:

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. (1 John 3:14)

"Because We Love The Brethren" marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve studied the subject of love in the Bible often, but I hadn’t thought much about the scripture in 1 John, or about the fact that we need to be around people to love them. It’s not that I really expected to love my brethren as a hermit — I just hadn’t thought of it in those words. I tend toward a more introspective approach to life, and my first reaction is to worry about changing myself and bringing “every thought into submission.” While it is important to be personally working toward perfection, I think my approach should probably be a little closer to C.S. Lewis’s councel to “not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” Sometimes action has to come before we feel like doing something or we think we’re perfectly ready.

“If You Love Me”

A comment on my “Heart of Worship” post has had me thinking about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. The comment noted that “worship is also connected to commandment keeping and is not only praise and emotion.” This reminded me of something I noticed while studying love in the Old and New Testaments.

In John 14:15, Jesus Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” This clearly states that that we cannot claim to love Christ if we are not obeying Him, and is not an isolated verse. The idea of loving God and keeping His commandments is paired at least eleven times in the Old Testament and nine times in the New Testament (Ex. 20:6. Deu. 5:10; 7:9; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16. Josh. 22:5. Neh. 1:5. Dan. 9:4. Matt. 22:38-39. Mark 12:30. John 14:15, 21; 15:10. 1st John 4:21; 5:2, 3. 2nd John. 1:6).

Keeping the Lord’s commandments is vital to having a loving relationship with Him. From the beginning, God expected obedience from His people. This is made very clear when He established the Old Covenant with ancient Israel.

See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it (Deuteronomy 30:15)

Jesus connected this ancient commandment with the New Covenant when He answered the question “which is the great commandment in the law?” He quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 by saying:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mark 12:29-30)

This love goes much deeper than just loving God to fulfill a commandment. Our God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him, because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). Just a few verses after Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” in John 14, He added this:

He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him (John 14:21)

If we love Him and keep His commandments, we will be loved by both Jesus Christ and God the Father. And not only loved – Jesus Christ says He will manifest Himself to us. “Manifest” is from the word emphanizō, and means that Christ will let Himself “be intimately known and understood” (G1718 ἐμφανίζω; Zodhiates). To know our Creator personally is an incredible promise, one we can claim if we love God and attach ourselves strongly to Him by keeping His commandments.

Just a note … the ideas in this post, particularly the second paragraph, are part of a larger study I’ve been doing on love in the Bible. I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be more of a long-ish paper or a short booklet, but I’m planing to finish revising it and have a PDF available on this blog by Pentecost (May 19th) for anyone who would be interested in reading it.