Updated: Apr 24, 2022
“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.”
1 John 4:20-21 ESV
Our culture redefines the word “love” and pseudo-Christians have embraced this to the point where the word “love” tends to lose its meaning. The word “love” here is the Greek word “agape”, which means: to seek someone’s highest good. That doesn’t always look like an emotional love. In fact, agape is not used in scripture as an emotional act but rather a command or action on behalf of another. In some cases seeking someone’s highest good can mean denying them something that is harmful or telling them about something in their life that will result in their downfall. Even if doing so causes pain…
Read the passage again substituting love for “seeks someone’s highest good”
“If anyone says, “I seek God’s highest good,” and does not seek his brother’s, he is a liar; for he who does not seek his brother’s highest good whom he has seen cannot seek God’s highest good whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever seeks God’s highest good must also seek his brother’s.”
1 John 4:20-21 ESV
How has this affected your understanding of the passage? When we see a brother in need of earthly goods, do we offer? How bout when we see a brother falling into harmful activity? Are we still seeking their highest good? Or are we focusing on their feelings and prioritizing their relationship with ‘us’ over their relationship with ‘God’?
John goes on in the very next chapter and helps us understand.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”
1 John 5:2 ESV
So how do we know we are seeking our brother’s highest good? WHEN WE SEEK GOD’S HIGHEST GOOD AND OBEY HIM. Culture has rewritten “love” to run completely counter to this verse. To tell someone ‘their lifestyle is sinful and jeopardizes their fellowship with the Father’ is seen as unloving if it threatens to hurt the persons feelings. Even though to “seek that persons highest good” is to risk that. To seek God’s highest good is to reveal that, lest willful sin become an impediment to His fellowship with His children.
All too often culture, following after the spirit of this world and not the Spirit of Christ, uses a worldly definition of love (an emotional love) as an escape to keep from having the hard conversations. This is doubly dangerous as it not only leaves our brother walking in willful rebellion against God but also has the effect of allowing us to justify our cowardice in self righteousness.
The spirit of this world would say that confronting a brother is unloving. But the Spirit of Christ would say the motivation behind doing so is the real determining factor.
Seeking our brother’s highest good means that our motive is genuinely not self centered. We take no joy in their pain. But in seeking their highest good we acknowledge that although pain and difficulty is a risk, their highest good is to stay the course, walk with Christ, and finish the race in fellowship with Him. This is what I would hope my brothers would do for me. This is love.