And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
I often think that as Christians we have confused the Gospel value of love with the social value of liking people. It’s not helped by the paucity of English in trying to translate the various Greek words for love – we can mean the emotions we feel for our family, the affection we feel for friends, the power of eroticism and selfless service of others in this term love. Often, however, we major on whether we like someone or not. Of course it’s good if we like those we encounter in our daily lives, in our workplaces and in our churches but whether, or not, we like them is irrelevant to the command to love.
The writer of 1 John sees the command to love as being on a par with the command to believe in Jesus. That’s quite something. Often in our credal statements – classic, from the Reformation era or contemporary – we focus on beliefs, finely honed words to reflect our deepest theological ideas. Yet we rarely, if ever, focus on our behaviour as a facet of Christian belief. Maybe if we did we’d find a third way between those who, rightly, focus on the importance of sound doctrine and those who, again rightly, focus on the importance of living well.
God our lover, help us to love even those we don’t like. God our lover, help us to be faithful to you in our beliefs and in our actions, that the world may believe in and love you. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving congregations in Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton.