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“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” [1 John 4:10-16]

Do you love me? You should, and I should love you – especially if we are Christians. It is so sad to see conflict, animosity and even hatred between Christians. The truth is, when we fail to love each other, we dishonor God. ”Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

When Christians gather, love should be so prevalent that we could almost see it. [“So thick you could cut it with a knife” ] Give this some deep thought. When we go to church on Sunday morning, do we feel an atmosphere of love? When you greet a fellow Christian, do you have a conscious thought of “I love you”? God expects us to feel that way.

“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” [1 John 4:19-20] That is stern language, but we know it is true. “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” [20-21]

It is hard – perhaps impossible – to love someone because we are commanded to, even if it is from God. But if we are truly walking in love with Christ, who loved us enough to die for us, we should be able to feel a deep, spiritual love for all our sisters and brothers. Think about it, when you are experiencing a deep, spiritual closeness to the Father, don’t you feel love for everyone? God is love, and His Spirit lives in those who have accepted Christ. When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, love is the guiding force. We cannot truly walk in the love of the Spirit and feel hatred or bitterness toward another. Therefore, God commands us to walk in love. “And this is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” [2 John: 6]

That does not mean that we will always like the things that some folks do or the way they behave, but we should still love them. We don’t always like some of the things our children or other loved ones do, but we still love them. By understanding the love commandment from God, we should be able to separate our not “liking” something about a sister or brother and our “loving” them as a sister or brother in Christ. If we could grasp that and put it into practice, perhaps we would all get along much better, and the things that cause dissention between Christians could be overcome. By overcoming our differences, which are many times so petty, the church could become much more effective in its divine mission – bringing the lost to Jesus.

If there is anyone whom you can say you do not love, for whatever reason – especially a fellow Christian — try to apply God’s Word to the situation. For the truth is, you cannot be complete in your walk with the Lord and feel unloving thoughts toward another. If we harbor unloving feelings toward any one, we should begin by praying for that person and for God to strengthen us to overcome those feelings. If God loves them, and He does, so should we love them. And we pray that they love us, as well.

This verse from 2 John bears repeating often:

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” [2 John :6]If there was ever a time in history to try to obey this command, it is now. Amen

—Dr. Sam Smith is the organizer of Butterfly Ministries and can be reached at