“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 powerful words hit me this morning and cause me to examine the love that I believe have for others. If I love God then His love will naturally flow from my life. If I cannot love those who are in my life—no matter how they act or treat me—then I cannot love God. “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).
Have I convinced myself that I truly love God but harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, anger, jealousy, or some other aspect of unforgiveness in my heart? If this is the case and I believe all is well then I am highly mistaken. I have not allowed the unconditional love extended to me on Calvary to change my life. Just like the servant who when forgiven by His master I cannot extend forgiveness to another. Just as that servant I also 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. Jesus’ love is the greatest gift. But His love cannot transform my life until I allow it.
Allowing Jesus Christ to change my life 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 fester. If I do not allow the Holy Spirit to transform my heart and cauterize these areas of unforgiveness, I will remain bound in a prison of discontent and tormented by my inability to forgive.
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. His love has fully forgiven me, and I choose to love with His love. I choose to forgive any who have hurt me. I choose His love above any feeling or emotional turmoil. I choose to allow His love to transform my heart and mind. In surrender of my will to His will, I will freely share His forgiveness with the depth of purpose and heart with which He has loved me. I will love as I have been loved.
(Copyright 2017 Lynn Hampton Lacher)