Loving God and Loving Others
“23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:23-24 NIV
There is something I have never noticed before when I’ve read 1 John 3:23. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read 1 John 3 many times before. I’ve probably read this verse over a dozen times, but I’ve always missed it.
I’ve seen 1 John 3:23 as giving a summary of the TWO most important commands that Jesus gave us. I’ve often thought of 1 John 3:23, as summarizing two important commands that Jesus gives.
1 – Believe in the name of Jesus Christ – for salvation.
2 – Love one another – for discipleship.
Today, however, I notice something different. I notice that John NEVER distinguishes this as two commands. It surprised me to see that John says, “And this is his command (note that it is a singular command!): to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
John lumps these two ideas into one. John shares that believing in the name of Jesus and loving one another is one command! In other words, if I really believe in the name of Jesus, I WILL be a loving person to others.
Too many times I think that it is one thing to be saved and to believe in the name of Jesus, and another command entirely to love others. Sometimes I do well loving God, but I struggle in loving others. God is easy enough to love. After all He gives and does so much for me. Sometimes the church is harder to love (after all, the church is filled with flawed people like me!). John dispels that myth that I can love God, but not the church. He shows me that the two commands actually go together! Salvation, in John’s view, does not come alone. Both salvation and discipleship, according to John, go together.
To believe in the name of Jesus Christ means to place my belief in Jesus, my faith in Him, and my trust in Him. It means relying on Him and clinging to Him. Believing in the name of Jesus is not about an intellectual creed I subscribe to. It is not about having a knowledge or understanding of God or a theology. It is about trusting Jesus fully and totally with my life!
When John says that we need to love one another, he is reminding me that loving the church is NOT an option for Christians. In other words, there can be no separation of loving Jesus and loving the church! Loving the brethren, or the church, is a command for ALL of us to obey. Someone once said it this way, “You must follow Jesus for yourself, but you can’t follow Him by yourself.”
Lord Jesus I know that in order for me to grow in my love for You, I need to learn to love others more. Holy Spirit, help me grow in my love for the brethren and for the church. Amen.