1 John 4:16-21 (ESV)
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
There is so much in this 1st epistle of John. As in all his writings, simple on the surface, they are written in a Greek that is straightforward and simple compared to say Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Yet the truths contained therein are astounding, John never proves a boring read. God is love, and whoever abides in Love abides in God and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment…. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love god,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; Those words hit home, now law cutting to the heart, now gospel healing a wound in the soul.
Whoever says, “I love God,” and hates his brother he is a liar. Does that describe us? Does that describe you? I’m afraid I have caught myself in that predicament a couple times. Not only with my actual brothers, but with my friends, fellow pastors, neighbors and my true brothers and sisters in the church, for as Jesus says in response to his mother and brothers who came to ask him to quit his ministry so early on, Whoever does the will of my father, he is my brother and sister and mother. And the Will of the Father is that we listen to Him, to Jesus, His son with whom he is well pleased.
Yes, it is problematic that we often don’t get along with our own family members for whatever reasons we may have. We have a duty to forgive and love their too, not only when things are easy, but perhaps most when they are difficult. And they can certainly be that. We live in a state where the culture values family even above God. This cannot be so for those who follow Christ. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37 (ESV) And we have lost people because their families would disown them if they joined our church. This is family. They can be twisted, sick and satanic enough that they would stand between the soul of their son or daughter and the one person Jesus says we should call Father, our Father in heaven, prevent them from pursuing truth and love wherever it may lead? And do we honor them by considering them moral? If we do then we need to reconsider what we consider to be moral behavior. We have been too far polluted by the so called secular society we live in who thinks of morality primarily in terms of the sixth commandment of which they are intent on desecrating. But what about us? Sit and examine yourself for a minute. Do you now treat your parents with the love and forgiveness that you would have your own children treat you with when they are your age? Immoral. Do you treat your children with the same love and forgiveness for which you craved when you were their age? Immoral. How about your wife or husband. Do you truly seek to love and honor and cherish one another? Or lets put it this way, do we seek the love of friends, the approval of a boss, the accolades of society more than we do that of our spouse so they are ignored at the expense of work, community involvement, or simple things as mundane as facebook, t.v. books, magazines or whatever other avenues to escape we might have?
Whoever says “I love God” but hates his brother is a liar. And we have another family where this word is just as if not more important than at home. Whoever does the will of my Father he is my brother my sister and my mother. This means we have a family in the church. Oh this can raise an ugly head. Where ever there are people there is sin, and wherever there is sin there is hate, and it is often accompanied with a heart one way or another unwilling to forgive. How often I had to check my own heart at convention this last week, watching a brother approach the microphone to speak for or against a motion. I wonder about it in our own relationships in the church at times. It is so easy to give up for instance and stop going to church as we say because of an argument we had with someone else, rather than forgive we would cut ourselves off from forgiveness, rather than love we would cut ourselves off from love. Does it not happen? Rather than taking a breath and listening, we let our pride and bruised ego get in the way? That can be a hard one for me. Perhaps it isn’t even an argument that gets in the way, but profound disappointment with another member of the church. Perhaps it is me, your pastor. I pray nearly every morning the words of Psalm 69, “oh lord let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me.” I pray that because I know my own sin, I see it. When I preach the law to you, I feel it in my own heart. The devil toys with my conscience accusing me of hypocrisy. Who am I to lecture another on pride and bruised egos? Who am I to lecture others on forgiveness? I’m God’s servant who is not appointed to preach repentance. And repentance not only for those sins, of which I delude myself into thinking I am free from. But to preach repentance for all sins, perhaps most of all those sins for which I myself feel most guilty. And it is a tough thing. I wake up and think on days, why lord? Why should your people have to forgive your servant for that? Why can’t I just not be guilty of such things? And I pray that my sins, would not be a barrier to the love and forgiveness I know. Because I am to preach forgiveness too.
We love because he first love us. Yes we are liars. We do not love God. Not as we should. We are guilty of sin against our brothers, sin which has another name in hate. We show thereby that do not love but hate. Yet it is not our love for God that saves us, that justifies us, that sanctifies us, but his love for us that forgives us. And it is this love, we as Christians seek to abide in. there is no better cure for hate than the love of God. No better cure for the hate of a brother than the love of God. And that love is found here. It is found here where the death of Christ is proclaimed, proclaimed as we are buried into death through baptism, despite the objections of family, proclaimed from the pulpit where our sin and hate is exposed and forgiven in the name of Christ, and proclaimed as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup. The bread that Jesus has taken and proclaimed to be his body given for you, and the cup he has proclaimed to be the New Testament in his blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. And here we eat and drink to receive forgiveness, and do ing so abid in love and show love for neighbor.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.