LOVING GOD: A HORIZONTAL RELATIONSHIP
wants to love and be
loved. We so desperately want to love and be loved that we are devastated if we are denied that
love. People will do incredible things in the attempt to win love. If we fail to receive the love we
so desperately want, we become very angry, bitter people. It would be most revealing to know
how many people who hate, how many people who commit crimes against people, and how many
people who create pain and distress for others were denied love in their early lives.
However, loving and being loved is a very complex matter. First, it is complex for those
who have experienced rejection in early life. They face demanding struggles in learning how to
love Second, those who were taught the wrong concept of love have a hard time loving. Third,
those who have a healthy concept of love discover quickly that loving requires an enormous
amount of unselfishness and sacrifice.
There is one common discovery made by everyone who loves: Loving a person means
that you must love many others beside that person. If you love a lady enough to commit your life
to her in marriage, you are committing yourself to love others besides her. You are committing
yourself to learn to love the others whom she loves--parents, brothers, sisters, important friends.
If you fail to love those whom she loves, you soon begin to realize that failure is placing her love
for you in jeopardy. The same thing is true if you love a man enough to commit your life to him
in marriage. In fact, the same thing is true in every significant love relationship of life. The
principle is quite simple: If you love me, you cannot hate those whom I love. If you hate those
whom I love, you create a crisis for our love.
This same principle is true in our love relationship with God. It is essential that your love
for God be personal, that it constantly reaches upward to embrace God in the highest and most
personal manner possible. It must be filled with genuine commitment and feeling for God as a
person. That is absolutely essential--but it is not enough. It is just as essential that you love those
whom God loves. Scripture makes it very clear that if you do not, then you do not love God.
The first people you must love if you love God are God's own children. Scripture is
emphatic in its declaration that if you do not love your Christian brothers and sisters, you do not
love God. This morning I want us to examine why the apostle John wrote about the importance
of Christians loving Christians.
- If we are to properly understand what John writes about Christians loving Christians, we must begin with John's record of the last night of Jesus' life.
- I am accepting as fact that the apostle John wrote both the gospel of John and the epistle of I John.
- The gospel of John gives us the most detailed description of those last hours which Jesus shared with the 12 before Judas left, and with
the 11 after Judas left.
- He devotes 5 chapters (13-17) or 155 verses to the event that occurred around the Lord's Supper before the group
went to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed.
- There are 878 verses in John, so John devotes 18% of the entire gospel just to Jesus interaction with his disciples on that
- Those 5 chapters contain the following information:
- Because of each disciple's conceit and arrogance, not one of them would stoop to the task of washing the feet of the
others, so Jesus washes their feet.
- The act so embarrasses and humiliates Peter that he unsuccessfully tries to refuse to allow Jesus to
wash his feet.
- Jesus taught them very pointedly that they would never be too important or too good to perform any act
of service to others.
- Not even he was too important to provide humble service to others.
- Being deeply troubled in spirit about the events that were hastening to happen, he revealed to them that he was going to be betrayed by one of them.
- After Judas left, he began trying to explain that he was going away and this time that they could not go with him.
- That statement thoroughly confused them, so he makes a major attempt to reassure them and to prepare
them for the crushing events that are about to happen.
- At the center of his reassurance is the repeated promise that in his absence God is going to send to them
the Holy Spirit which will bless them in specific
ways and be their permanent Comforter.
- He gave them the parable of the vine and the branches to teach them that it was essential that they continue to exist in
him even though he would be gone.
- He declared he was about to prove his love in the greatest manner possible--he was going to give up his life for
- He stated that he was telling them these things to prepare them so that they would not stumble.
- It was necessary for him to go away, in fact, it was in their best interest that he go away.
- However, in a little while, they would see him again.
- Soon they would weep while the world rejoiced, but their sorrow would be transformed into joy.
- He admitted that he was talking to them in dark sayings or parables, but he has petitioned God the Father for them.
- The world was going to give them enormous suffering, but they are to be of great courage because he has triumphed over
- Then Jesus prayed a very moving prayer for himself and for them.
- All of this material is found nowhere else except in the gospel of John.
- There are three important features I want you to notice in John's emphasis in these events.
- First, the 12 disciples did not have a relationship of love, of closeness, of respect, and of unselfishness at this time.
- They were rivals, not loving best friends.
- Everyone of them at this time expected Jesus to take over the nation of Israel, to be Israel's king, and to bring into
being God's golden age for Israel.
- Everyone of them was basically concerned with what position and what authority he was personally going to possess in
this new nation of Israel.
- Each one of them wanted power.
- Each one of them wanted authority.
- Each one of them wanted honor and respect.
- Each one of them wanted the highest position possible in the kingdom--they each wanted to be Jesus'
right hand man.
- This was why earlier the mother of James and John had asked that her sons be allowed to sit on Jesus' right and left
hand, and why all the rest of the disciples deeply resented
- This was why they argued about which one of them was the greatest or most important.
- This was why not a single one of them would condescend to wash the other's feet--that would be a confession that he accepted as fact that the others were more
important than he was.
- These men did not love each other, not in the way Jesus wanted, not in the way they had to if they were going to survive
the coming ordeal.
- If this same attitude continued after Jesus' death, these men would permanently go their own ways, and
all of Jesus' training would be lost, for no purpose.
- If they were to succeed as his witnesses after his death and resurrection, they absolutely must become a
close knit group who loved each other more than life,
more than self, more than persecution.
- Everything Jesus had planned for the coming of his church, God's new family, depended on their loving each other
and their loving him.
- Second, among the repeated emphasis in these 5 chapters are the following two.
- The first emphasis: If you love me, you must keep my commandments.
- Jesus wanted it to be clearly impossible for them to declare they loved him and to define their love
for him in any way which excluded obedience.
- If there was no obedience to his commands, there was no love. Profound feeling, great respect, or
personal appreciation without obedience was not
- Look at the coupling of love for him and obedience to his commands:
- 14:15--If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- 14:21--He that keeps my commandments is the one who loves me, and his is the one my
Father and I will love.
- 14:23--If a man loves me, he will keep my words.
- 14:24--If you don't keep my words, you don't love me.
- The second emphasis: I command you to love each other; you must accept me as the literal example of the way you are to love each other.
- Look at chapter 13:34,35--A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I
have loved you, that ye also love one another. By
this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if
ye have love one to another.
- The new commandment Jesus gave the 12 just before his betrayal was that they love
- They did not, and that had to change.
- He commanded the change.
- Certainly, they would have claimed that they did love each other, and, by their
definition of love, they did.
- But they did not love each other by his definition.
- They were to define and to understand the love they were to have for each other by the
love he had shown them from the day they began following him.
- Anything less than that was not love.
- It was absolutely essential that this love exist in genuineness--for it would be the one
undeniable proof that these men were truly
- Look at chapter 15:12,13--This
is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as
I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
- The same emphasis--I command you to love each other.
- I command you to love each other in the same way that I have loved you.
- When it comes to love, I am the example, and I am going to show you how great my
love is for you and how great your love
must be for each other--I am going to give
up my life for you.
- Look at 15:17--These things I command you, that you may love one another.
- These things I am teaching you about existing in me, about the trials you are going to
face, about my relationship with the Father,
about my new relationship with you are the
things which will enable you to love each
- All these things which I am commanding you to do exist to enable you to love each other.
- Now I want you to turn with me to I John.
- In the gospel of John, John is recording what Jesus stated the last night of his earthly life in a year somewhere near 30 AD.
- The message of I John is written decades after that night.
- In the many years that have passed from the death of Jesus to the time of I John, numerous serious problems have
arisen within the church.
- A number of heresies are being taught by false prophets.
- Many of those heresies were of a much more serious nature
than the majority of our doctrinal problems of
today--was Jesus really a man? did he really die? was he
actually resurrected? is Jesus as the Christ the true center
of the gospel and salvation?
- The fellowship of Christians was suffering, and in some places falling apart.
- The great love that characterized the early church is fading.
- Rivalries and parties have long since sprung up in congregations.
- Some Christians openly compete with other Christians for position and influence in the congregation.
- Some take over congregations and control them to satisfy their own desires and ambitions.
- A failure to understand and accept the responsibility to love brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loved us was one of the reasons the congregations were having so many internal problems.
- In very practical, straight forward, down to earth terms John addressed all these problems by addressing the basic solution. Listen to what John
declares about the essentiality of Christians loving Christians.
- At the very beginning of his message in this book, he states in 1:6,7--If we say we have fellowship with him (God) and walk in
darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth: but if we walk in the
light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,
and the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
- Every Christian--faithful and strong, sinful and weak, declarer of truth or declarer of error--would readily claim to have fellowship with God.
- To claim to be in fellowship with God while living a life of sinfulness was to profess a lie and to fail to practice the
- For those who were committed to godly living, two facts were true.
- The natural result of godly living is maintaining fellowship with Christians.
- Stated as directly and simply as possible, if a Christian is living a godly life, that Christian is living in, keeping, sustaining fellowship with
- I cannot walk in the light and refuse to associate with, have relationship with my fellow Christians.
- The two are inseparable: The natural result of walking in the light is establishing and actively
maintaining fellowship with Christians.
- In chapter 3 John focuses even more powerfully on the mutual love of Christians.
- In verse 10 John makes a simple, direct statement that is impossible to misunderstand: The person who does not do--practice---righteousness is not God's child, and the person who does not love his
Christian brothers and sisters is not God's child.
- That is as plain and direct and straight forward as the statement that the person who does not believe will be
- Regardless of the fact that a Christian has been baptized in faith and repentance, regardless of what doctrines he
believes, regardless of what evil he rejects, if he refuses to
love his fellow Christians, he is not God's child.
- In verses 11-- For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
- That is the message that John heard from the beginning on that last night of Jesus' life.
- That is the message these Christians heard from the time of their conversion.
- There is no Christian responsibility more fundamental than loving other Christians--that command was given even
prior to the command to be baptized.
- Beginning with verse 14, John begins giving a set of affirmations about the importance and value of loving fellow Christians.
- Verse 14--We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.
- We know that we have left the death of sin and are spiritually alive in Christ because we love our
- Verse 15--If you hate a Christian brother, you are a murderer, and eternal life does not live in you.
- Verse 16--Hearby we know love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the
- Jesus by dying for us taught us what love is.
- What kind of love is to exist between us? Our relationship should be a life and death
- Verse 17--If you see a Christian brother or sister in true need,
and you have the material ability to relieve his physical distress,
and you have no compassion for him, how can God's love live
in you? A rhetorical question--it cannot.
- Verse 18--Our love for Christians must not be a matter of words or talk; it must be a matter of actions and truth.
- John then concludes his emphasis on the essentiality of Christians
loving Christians by making two arguments.
- 4:7--Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is
begotten of God, and knoweth God.
- Christians must accept the responsibility to love each other.
- They must accept that responsibility for three reasons
- First, that love has its origin in God--it comes from God
- Second, love is the proof that the Christian has been born into
God's family by God's own acceptance- he is the father
of the Christian who loves.
- Third, that love is the proof that the Christian knows God.
- 4:20,21--If a brother says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,
cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment
have we from him, that he who loveth God loveth his brother also.
- For a Christian to declare he loves God when he hates a Christian brother is for him to
lie--that love and hate cannot exist in the same heart.
- If a Christian is incapable of loving a Christian brother or sister
who share the same earthly existence with him, an earthly existence and humanity he
can relate to, he is certainly incapable of loving God
who is not human, whom he cannot relate to on the
basis of common existence.
- This is the commandment to us: If we love God we must love God's other children.
This is not nearly the end of the subject nor all of the subject. It is just the first part of the
responsibility of Christians to love Christians. We will examine all sides of the commandment.
We need to close on this understanding. I do not love my brother and sister in Christ
because he and she are lovable. I love my brother and sister because he and she belong to God,
and God loves him and her. My primary reason for learning to love each of them is the fact that
God loves them.
Someone says, "You simply cannot love people that are not lovable!" I hope for your and
my sake that you are dead wrong. Before God I am not lovable, and neither are you. God does
not love any of us because we are lovable--he loves us because he made us in his image, and
because we have accepted Christ.
It is an enormous help in accepting the responsibility to love the rest of God's family when
we honestly accept the fact that we are not lovable either.
John makes one thing very clear. If as a Christian you want God's love, God's
forgiveness, and God's eternal love, it is just as essential that you learn to love your brother and
sister in Christ as it is that you have been baptized into Christ.
Someone says, "That is not natural!" You are absolutely right. It is not natural. It is
transcribed by Christy Hesslen
EXALTING CHRIST, Chapter Seven
Chapter Six Chapter Eight
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Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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