The author writes to a Christian community with this straightforward declaration, one of many like it:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).
You could try to find a little wiggle room here, because John maybe means we (Christians) need to love one another (other Christians), and not that we need to love everybody.
But I’m thinking that’s a bit of a dodge.
I mean, even if John was referring to life within the Christian community, there’s still his big, universal statement: “Love comes from God.” It’s hard to parse that out to convince ourselves that God is really perfectly OK with us hating people who aren’t part of our community, so long as we love our Christians sisters and brothers. God did create every single one of those other folks too.
So, here we are in a time of high dudgeon—so many, many things to be angry about and so many, many people who do or say those things we’re angry about.
On top of that, many of us are over-busy and chronically stressed, which wears away our good intentions and makes us more prone to irritability and anger. In this environment, how well do we do when we check ourselves with John’s litmus test?
This time we’re in could be a great opportunity for us to demonstrate the counter-cultural nature of a life spent following Jesus, by letting love undergird our relationships and our opinions and our comments and our stance toward people who disagree with us—even those whose views we find truly disturbing.
If we practice loving, if we consciously adopt an attitude of love-first/agreement-or-disagreement-second, it will show. People will sense it. It will make a difference in the world—a real, tangible difference.
And, as a bonus, it’ll help us know God more fully. It’ll help us experience, on a small scale, what God is doing every moment of every day: loving people no matter what.