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Jan. 10, 2019 - If you Love God, Love Your Brother

Thursday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings

What would you say if you were asked if you love God? It seems like a silly or at least very simple question, especially for someone reading a daily scripture reflection. I think my immediate response would be, “Yes, of course I love God.” Today’s first reading (1 John 4:19-5:4), however, can bring us to pause and consider how much we truly love God. It challenges that if we say “I love God” but then hate our brother, then we are a liar, for “whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (vs.20)  This reading is saying that our love for God is shown in our love for one another. It may seem obvious, but if that is the measure of my love for God, then I’m afraid it wouldn’t measure up as much as I would like to think or say it does.

The First Letter of John reminds us that the commandment that has been given us is that whoever loves God must also love their brother.  We are called to take Christian love out of the abstract and into the concrete of daily loving one another, and this is how we love God. So, what does this love for God look like?

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke (4: 14-22) helps us answer that question.  Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth.  The familiar passage refers to being anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to “bring glad tidings to the poor…proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind…let the oppressed go free….”(vs.18) Jesus’ ministry fulfilled this prophecy and is an example to us as to how we are to love God by loving one another.

Luke’s gospel emphasizes how Jesus loved the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the social outcasts, the suffering and the sinners. And as followers of Jesus and lovers of God, and as part of the Body of Christ, we are called to do the same. It’s not as easy as simply saying “I love God.” It’s challenging and it’s not always popular.

Initially after Jesus’ reading in the synagogue, he was admired and spoke highly of, but in the verses that follow today’s passage (23-30) we hear that the people quickly became angry and rejected Jesus, which can be taken as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ entire future ministry. At first the people flocked to Jesus and he was gaining popularity and admiration, but we know how the tides later turned and he had very few follow him to the cross. 

And that is the challenge.  Are we willing to follow Jesus to the cross?  Are we willing to risk our popularity and reputation, maybe even our status in this world, in order to love our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, even our enemies, as Jesus showed us the way to truly loving God?

In this year of being the Body of Christ to one another, let us pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint us with the strength, the grace, and the wisdom to truly love God by loving one another, even those who are most difficult to love.

 Eileen Miller