Thursday after Epiphany or 10 January – Reading

Commentary on 1 John 4:19—5:4 
Once again John emphasises the inseparable link between loving God and loving our sisters and brothers. We are to love because God loves first. Because of his love, the only response we can give is to return his love and pass it on. God’s love for us does not depend on our first loving him. Our love is always a response; it is never our initiative. But then our love for God is primarily shown by our loving those around us. Anyone who says “I love God”, but shows hate for a sister or brother is, quite simply, a liar. How can we say we love the God we cannot see when we refuse to love the brother or sister we can see?
It is so easy to love an invisible God. But it can be very difficult at times to love a very visible sister or brother. It is so easy to appear pious, devotional, even “holy”, spending long hours in front of Jesus in the tabernacle and in other religious activities and yet living in very poor relationships with certain people.
The Letter puts it very simply: “Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister.” He puts it another way by saying that everyone who loves a father loves the children he has given life to. At the time this Letter was written, families were very closely-knit units under the headship of a father. So, in the same way, anyone who loves God our Father will naturally love all God’s children who are, of course, in a very real way our brothers and sisters. We must love every single child to whom our loving God has given life. I cannot refuse to love someone that God loves and for whom he sent his Son to die on a cross.
Again he repeats what he has already said: We love God by keeping his commandments and earlier he has made it clear what those commandments are:
1, To believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God – a call for total commitment and surrender to the Way of the Gospel;
2, To love our sisters and brothers.
And these commands are not burdensome. Not because they are always easy to carry out fully but because we live in the strength of the Spirit and because they are in total conformity with our nature made in the likeness of God. There is nothing artificial or arbitrary about them. To observe them is to become more and more what we are meant to be – living in the image of our Creator God.
It is by doing this that we will “conquer the world”, that is, the world of sin, of self-centred greed and hate. It is only this faith and love which can bring healing and wholeness into people’s lives.

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