Verse: 1 John 3:11-15
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This passage gets real intense, real quick. He starts off saying what he's been saying over and over again the entire book: love each other. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he encourages us to not become murderers! Imagine sitting down with a young child and saying, "Listen, there are a couple things you should know: (1) we should love people, (2) don't kill anyone." It feels like kind of a huge leap!
But as we read further we see why. "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer." Wait. What? John is, once again, showing us through vivid illustration how hatred has no place in the Kingdom of God. In God's economy the opposite of love isn't hate—it's murder! Hate is so foreign to God that it might as well be murder.
When we harbor hatred in our hearts for people who are created in the image of God, we are essentially aligning ourselves with the same evil that actually ends lives. John will tell us in the next chapter that, "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (4:16) We are called to learn to love people as God loves them. Jesus even calls us to "love our enemies" (Matthew 5:44). The Christian has no room for hatred in their heart, no matter how much we disagree with another person.
I have read several times recently that we in America are living in a more divided time than our country has known since the Civil War. In this time, these words are even more important for us to ponder. Can we take an honest look at our hearts? Do we have hatred in our hearts for people we ideologically, or politically, disagree with? The emotions of disagreement run deep. We read what they post, or listen to what they say, and our gut reaction is "how on earth can any rational person think that!?!?!" We may see them as the problem with society. We may see their beliefs as dangerous, unloving, and hurtful. But we are still called to love them.
Isn't that hard? This is why John brings up Cain and Abel. Cain eventually got so fed up with Abel, that his hatred overflowed to do physically what he had been harboring in his heart for so long.
Here's a thought exercise: Think about the person, or people, or group, or ideology, that you most disagree with. And think about loving them. Try to pray for them. Bless them in prayer. How does that feel? How do you think God feels about them? Is it possible to get God's heart for people we don't like?
I know our feelings can be hard to control. This passage is a powerful reminder of our need to submit them to Jesus and allow him to do the deep work of changing our hearts, and teaching us how to love, even those who are hardest for us to love.
God I pray that I would learn to love more like you. I pray for those who are hard for me to love. I pray that you would show me your heart for them.