“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” I John 5:2
John made it abundantly clear that true Christians will love their brethren. He said in I John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” He said again in I John 4:20, “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.” A third time in I John 5:1 he said, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”
Who is the brethren? It is the church. The church is the ecclesia, which is a Greek word meaning assembly. It is the body of assembled believers that make up the church. It isn’t a building, an address, or a piece of property. It is the brethren, fellow brothers, and sisters in Christ. To say that we love the brethren is to say that we love the church, the assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. To say that we do not love the church is to say that we don’t love the brethren. Loving the brethren is loving people; people who are saved and are now one family as adopted children of God and joint heirs in Christ.
One of the clear tests of whether or not one is a true Christian is whether or not he loves the brethren. When one is saved, they are transformed from death to life, from flesh to spirit, from wrath to godliness. The one who is saved receives the Holy Spirit, which then transforms them giving them the divine nature of God. God’s nature is one of love. I John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Does this mean we always have to like what our brothers and sisters do? Of course not. It does mean that we have to love them regardless of what they do. The love of God is able to love the most unlovable. All too often Christians and churches do things that aren’t Christ like. God still loves us; and we too need to love our brethren. They are our family in Christ. There are times my children do things that I am displeased with. I still love them. I displeased my parents on many occasions. They still loved me. Families love despite the failures and the church is our spiritual family. There are times churched people act mean and cruel. This does not represent the nature of Christ. This is an act of the flesh directly contradicting Christ. Do we then stop loving them? Of course not. True love isn’t given to those who give love in return. That is fleshly and selfish. Jesus loved us even while on the cross. What worse can anyone do to us than what our sins did to Jesus?
Loving the brethren connects directly with keeping God’s commandments. John said in I John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Remember, Jesus told us what His commands are in Matthew 22:36-38, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If we are truly saved, we will love the Lord and love other people without this love being a burdensome tedious task. If it is burdensome, it is not true love and the true nature of God is not at work in our lives. The test of love is not about love in and of itself. It is about whether or not the divine nature of God is at work in one’s life being manifest through the act and life of love. If we are walking in the light as God is in the light the love of God will be manifest within our lives as an evidence of our salvation. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).