Loving God and loving others are so closely related that they cannot be separated.
Over the years I've heard people say, "God and I are tight, but people I can do without." Don't get me wrong; there's no doubt that people are hard to love at times. With all of their habits, idiosyncrasies, and sinful behaviors, they can flat-out get on our nerves. But through the God of love, we can overcome.
In the first letter that the Apostle John wrote to the Ephesian believers, he stated some very important truths about love.
First of all, in chapter 4, John stated two times that God is love (I John 4:8, 16). Love is not just something God does. He doesn't just do loving things when He's feeling up to it. Love is essentially a part of God's nature. He cannot be anything other than loving. For God to not be loving, he would not be God. Therefore, every action He does comes from a motivation of love. John then goes on to make the case that if we know God, through His Son Jesus Christ, then we also have to be people of love. He states this in verses 7, 12, 16 and 20.
When a write repeats a theme over and over, it's obvious that he doesn't want his reader to miss this point. John makes the same point 4 times in one chapter. He doesn't want his friends, the believers of Ephesus, to miss this point. People who truly know God, people who live in God and God in them, are people of love. They can't help but love! Why? Because they are a beloved child of God, and nothing can separate them from that love (Romans 8:38-39). Additionally, they have the Spirit of the Love-God living inside them.
If we are having a hard time loving the people God has placed around us, we have to ask ourselves a question: Are we truly born of God? Have we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? If we have decided to invite Jesus into our lives, then we are born again into God's family, which means we have the Holy Spirit inside us.
Now, there are days, in spite of the fact that we have the Spirit of the Love-God inside of us, that we don't do a good job loving others. We all have our off days! Does this mean we are no longer a part of God's family? NO WAY! It simply means we are not doing a good job of staying connected to Jesus, the Source of love. Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the Vine, you are the branches; the one who abides in Me, and I in them, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing!" A branch on a fruit tree must stay connected to the vine to produce fruit, because the sap and all the other important nutrients for growth come up from the roots and into the vine. If a branch gets disconnected for whatever reason, it will shrivel up and die. This can also happen in the life of a person.
What can cause us to get disconnected from the Vine? One source of disconnection is bitterness. When we get offended by another person and we choose not to forgive, we harden our hearts. When we harden our hearts toward that person, we also harden our hearts toward God. Because God is the One who is whispering in our ears, "Please forgive. Forgive in the same way that I have forgiven you." When we disregard that voice, we put up a makeshift wall between us and God; we get disconnected.
Another way to get disconnected from the Vine is to place something else on the throne of our hearts. When I value something more than God, I make that thing or person the temporary Lord of my life. When something becomes the Lord of our life, we seek to please that thing or person with complete devotion, which means that pleasing Jesus becomes secondary.
When we become a victim of bitterness or idolatry, we no longer have a clear channel for the sap of God's love to flow through us. When we were walking closely with the Lord, bearing fruit and loving others was second nature - it just came naturally. But when we get disconnected, the fruit of love does not grow on our branches.
Today, I want to remind you that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are called to love. Because God is love, and if we are connected to God, we must share His love. But if we're having a hard time loving others, even people who are hard to love, maybe it's because we have become disconnected from the true Source of love.
Friend, don't waste any time. Today is the day to get reconnected.
Pastor Toby Gallego
Riviera Baptist Church