Jesus once said of false prophets,
By their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16)
And while Jesus was specifically talking about false prophets, we can say the same of all those who claim to be Christians. Many people claim to be followers of Christ. They claim to know and love God. But what does the fruit that comes out of their lives show?
The number one fruit that should come out of their lives is love.
And so John tells us,
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (4:7-8)
A few verses down, he says again,
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (11-12)
According to John then, what is the proof God lives in us and his love is complete in us? It’s that we love one another.
He then expands on this idea. After proclaiming that God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world, he shows us the natural outcome of coming to know this truth in our hearts. He says,
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (15-16)
That second part of verse 16 almost sounds as if our relationship with God depends on our ability to learn to love. But actually, it is the exact opposite. Because we live in God and God in us, we start to live in love. Why is that?
The reason is that if we truly understand what God has done for us, our whole way of thinking changes. We no longer live wondering about our self-worth. We no longer base our value on what others think of us. Rather, we have full confidence in the love God has for us, and that confidence transforms our lives.
And that will also show on the day of judgment when we stand before God.
John tells us,
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (17-18)
John then sums this all up by saying,
We love because he first loved us. (4:19)
For this reason, John tells us,
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (4:20-21, 5:1)
“His child” seems to be referring not only to Jesus, God’s Son, but all of God’s children as well. In short, if we truly know and love God,we will also love his other children.
Is this saying then that if we struggle to love others in our lives that we are not Christians?
Love is a fruit of our relationship with God. And like all fruit, it starts small and then grows. But as we grow deeper in our relationship with God and understand his love more fully, our love for others should grow as well.
More on this tomorrow.