“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” 1 John 4:20-21, NIV).
These are powerful words, and they should make me stop and look at my relationships with others in my life. If I love God, then I must love others. If I cannot love those who are in my life–no matter how they act or treat me–then I cannot love God.“So now I am giving you a new commandment,” Jesus said. “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34, NLT).
Am I convinced that I truly love God but have bitterness, resentment, hatred, anger, jealousy, or some other facet of unforgiveness in my heart against another person? If this is the case and I believe all is well in my love for Jesus Christ, then I am highly mistaken. I have not allowed the unconditional love extended to me on Calvary to change my heart and mind. Just like the servant, who when forgiven by His master, I cannot extend forgiveness to another. I face the loss of what I have received. My love for God proves to be in name only. “Forgive,” Jesus says, “as I have forgiven you” (Luke 6:37). Forgiveness is not an option. Loving others is not an option. Calvary is not an option. But Calvary cannot become my life until I allow its love to transform me.
Allowing Jesus Christ to change my heart and mind begins when I give Him complete access to those areas of my life that I have tried to hide from Him. When I allow His light to shine into areas where ugliness has ruled, I have to face just how ugly they have been. I have to honestly examine them and ask forgiveness for the free reign I have given them. I am not allowed to hang on to them, and allow them to grow and fester. If I do not allow the Holy Spirit to transform my heart and cauterize these areas of unforgiveness, I will remain bound in despair and tormented by my own prison.
How can I claim to love God if I cannot love another? If I cannot forgive with His love, then how can I be forgiven? “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love,” Jesus said (Luke 7:47). Jesus showed me the greatest love. He gave His life to forgive me. I have been forgiven everything, and I will love as He has loved me.