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Chicken or the Egg

Sometimes we bristle at loving those who hate us and who are opposed to everything we believe in.

“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NKJV). 

In our natural state we are dead in sin and in rebellion against our Creator. In quoting from the Psalms, Paul describes everyone dead in sin as not seeking God, not doing good, and not fearing God. In other words, we are not only alienated from God; we are antagonistic to Him. Paul goes so far as to say that in our fallen condition we are “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30). In his writings, John depicts it as a clash between light and darkness. 

That might surprise us. Isn’t our land filled with religious expression and Christian denominations? Sure, there are those who militantly deny God or revile Him. But they are just a noisy fringe. How can churchgoers be God haters? 

It has to do with our inclination to idolatry. We make God in our image, fashioning Him as we want Him to be. We bring Him to serve us, rather than the reverse. We become a law unto ourselves. As haters of God, we are easily disposed to hate others in our chauvinistic self-righteousness, self-service, and self-glory. As Paul put it in his letter to Titus, we live “in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). 

Into this idol-filled darkness of heart, God shines the light of His redeeming love. God came to us, not us to God. John recognizes God’s sovereign grace when he says, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 

Our first reaction to that statement should be humility and awe. The warmth of God’s grace and brilliance of His love should permeate our being. 

Our second reaction should be a compulsion and expectation to love others. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20–21). 

The starting point, the fountain for loving others is a love for God, initiated by His love for us and poured into our hearts by His Spirit. We cannot conclude that we love God, if we do not love those made in His image and, particularly here, those called God’s beloved, our fellow believers. It is love for God that will incline our ear and compel our will to love others, even those who are unlovable and undesirable, even those who are haters of God and us. 

Sometimes we bristle at loving those who hate us and who are opposed to everything we believe in. Yet that is the non sequitur of the Christian faith, the disconnect between grace what is deserved. 

Who are you resisting when you refuse to love?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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