Edit: My best friend Bob pointed out that something was missing from this post. I agreed. To get the obvious (and humorous) out of the way, here is something with which I’m sure more than a few of you are familiar. I feel it is relevant to the subject at hand. Enjoy!
Today Pastor Denny took us through some of the epistle of 1 John and how we might test ourselves to see if our hearts are true, to see if we truly are children of God. He talked about our walk and our doctrine as being the first two tests. That is, our lifestyle and what we believe ought to line up with what God’s Word says. Our lives should not be marked by a lifestyle of sin if we are truly following God, abiding in Him and His Word. The foundation for all our other beliefs is that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the co-equal Trinity. If anyone denies that Jesus is God or preaches some other gospel other than that laid out in Scripture, it is the spirit of the antichrist and the Spirit of God does not dwell in him.
My heart and my mind are fairly secure with regard to those first two because I do not lead a walk marked by a lifestyle of sin nor do I believe some false gospel, but the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. However, the third test which Denny expounded upon definitely hit home with me. It is the relational test for true faith. Over and over throughout 1 John, love is mentioned. Verse 3:10 says “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. ” Verse 15 goes on to say that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Well who is my brother? The first part of 3:1 makes this clear: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” Every believer in Christ is my brother and my sister. So when I don’t treat them with the same loyalty, the same love, the same respect, the same dignity, the same forgiveness — in every manner the same as a member of my own family — 1 John 4:20 says of me: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” So if I do not love my brother, not only am I a liar, I am also a murderer and it is impossible for me to love God whom I have not seen because I cannot even love my brother whom I have seen.
But what is love? “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16). So if I am to love my brother as Christ has loved me, anything I have that I have been blessed with that my brother needs ought to be given to him. As God has shown me forgiveness for my sins against Him, so I ought to forgive my brother of all his sins against me. And just as God restores us when we repent to fellowship with Himself, so we ought to restore our brothers and sisters to fellowship when they repent of their sins against us. If I am to rid myself of any remnant of hatred for my brother or sister there cannot even be a hint of grudge-bearing in my life. That means I have to continue to pursue restoration and wholeness in my relationships with my mother and my younger brother, as well as others in my family who may not know Christ and also with those who are not in my immediate family but with whom I have had a falling out.
But what does it mean practically to stop holding a grudge against people who have hurt me? It means I stop avoiding them by refusing to speaking to them. It means I stop avoiding their physical presence. There was a time when I was angry (perhaps, I thought, even justifiably so) over the immense hurt they had caused me in either what they said or what they had done. The time for any anger has long past. It is now time for peace and reconciliation. It is time to pursue love. I am a child of God, and I ought to love His children. I’m going to have to make some difficult calls home this week. But it is what I must do. Otherwise, I am a liar and the love of Christ is not in me. Given who God is positionally toward me and what He has done for me, I cannot righteously justify withholding any forgiveness, reconciliation, or love from those by whom I have been hurt or offended.
If you, my friends, believe that I have a grudge against you or have withheld my love from you in any manner, please do not hesitate to tell me. If you call Jesus your King and God, you are my brothers and my sisters. I want to love you in the same manner as God, who has lavished His love upon me. This is right. This is proper. This is good. I pray that you will love me in this way also.