I John 4: 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.
“To live above with the Lord I love, yes that will be glory.
To live below with the saints I know, well, that’s another story”.
We have been considering Jesus’ teaching that citizens of the Kingdom of heaven love their enemies. The New Testament also has a great deal to say about how we interact with those who are not our enemies. The believers we worship with, serve Jesus with, pray with, receive the Lord’s Supper with – these are not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. For many of us, the struggle is not attempting to love those who will abuse us, hate us or persecute us. Many believers, to their shame, know very few non believers anyway. Sometimes it might be easier for us to focus on loving anonymous strangers than it is to seek to demonstrate real love to the believers with whom we interact several times a week. The world is full of religions and beliefs of all kinds. The way that world will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ is our love for each other.
The New Testament is simply full of instructions of all kinds regarding the love believers in Jesus Christ are to have for one another. It begins with those we know and worship with. We seem to be able to express great concern for Christians in far off places while ignoring those who we meet with every week. The Apostle John voices amazement at the ability some believers have to voice love for God, whom we cannot see, while not maintaining a demonstrable love for those we can see. In fact, he says it is impossible to love God whom we cannot see, if we do not love our brothers whom we can see.
This is the love with the same qualities that we saw the other day. It is patient. – Do you know anyone at your church who demands patience from you? It is kind. – Are there any who you just want to avoid? Love may not make best friends of everyone, but it will do kind things for them. Love is not rude. – Has anyone at your church ever been rude to you? Are there those who could say the same thing about you? Love does not insist on its own way. Oh dear. How many church business meetings does that relate to?
The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum. It is real, and gritty and down to earth. And it begins at home. We will never love our enemies the way that Jesus directs us to if we cannot even love those who believe as we do and worship alongside of us.
Lord, give us strength. Give us grace. And help us to really believe that you mean what you say when you say that if we do not love one another it is because we do not love you. Help us to love you with all our being and show it in love for one another.