“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:13-24; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version (Lectionary text of the Day)
Hate is a terrible passion – so terrible that, if consummated, ends in the death of its object. It is tantamount to murder in the Commandments. When unbridled hate is harbored in the heart, it is evidence of separation from the favor of God. Of course, a healthy disregard for sin can amount to hate, but that only desires the death of sin and not the sinner. But to literally hate our fellow man is base sin.
What is the antithesis of hate? It is love, and love is an overruling virtue of the Christian. It is the irrefutable evidence of the Christian character and disposition. It is the center of gravity that establishes the plumb line of faith and obedience to the Commandments of God. Love is so important that it is the substance of the only NEW Commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35) Love is a great enabling power that makes obedience to God not only possible, but a joy to perform.
The word LOVE as used in Holy Scripture has variant shades of meaning. The word our Lord uses in the cited passage from John thirteen is ‘ἀγαπάω’ in the Greek or Agapao). This is more than the ‘next of kin’ kind of love – more expansive than the filial brotherly love for a near blood relation (φιλέω.or brotherly love – Phileo). Agapeo love is the kind of moral love that goes beyond mere affection and is evidenced by enduring patience and sacrifice – even the sacrifice of the cross.
In a true spiritual sense, the love that Christians have for one another should exceed any love ties of common blood since we are blood relatives in the uncommon blood by which our Lord redeemed us of our sins and made us His own. My greater blood-relatives are those who are related to me by the blood of Christ and not that of even my parents. Of course, I love my parents and my brothers and sister by birth, but my love for my Christian family is a different kind of love that truly is eternal, and that which even survives death.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) I quote this verse often in my devotions. Are my quotes repetitive? Yes! And repetition aids retention and memory. Do you not believe this glorious promise is worth quoting often?
When the regenerated Christian realizes that love for his fellow Christians vanquishes all hate, he can then be sure that his testimony in Christ is true and binding. It is the empirical evidence of his standing in Christ for Christ loved us while we were yet sinners, and died for us. Though the Christian is compelled to judge sin by the Word of God, he is not capable of condemning any who sin. To do so is to condemn ourselves. Suppose we, too, were to be judged in our previous state of sinfulness. Only God could close the door of the Ark of Noah, and only God can close the Door of Salvation to the sinner. God does not view us in our present state of weakness, but He judges by what He knows we can become in His Son, Christ Jesus. If our Lord Jesus Christ loved our Christian brethren enough to lay down His life for their sins, should we not reciprocate that love?
Thankfully, God does not judge by the spur of the moment, but by the end game of our lives (much like the repentant thief on the cross). He knows the end from the beginning and judges our last state – not our first.