Our propensity is to believe that we are good, honest and trustworthy individuals. Now, let’s assume that characterization of ourselves is true. Are you a liar? Now before you emphatically say “No” and write this article off, let me encourage you to evaluate your own life. The answer, by the way, is “Yes I am a liar!” I was reminded of one key area that many followers of Jesus overlook in their lives.
The repeated use of the word “liar” in the Apostle John’s writing got me thinking about lying. The definition of the Greek word “liar” describes a person that has lied or who lies repeatedly. Now, my question is not focusing on our past. If I did, we are all guilty as charged. My question focuses on the present, the today in our lives. Before we go there, let me just state that Christians do still “lie” about many different things. Remember that we are a work in progress but our old nature is still active. Yes, even a half truth is a false “truth”. It is also a lie. This is something that all of us are working on. My question is not related to this kind of lying (although it is not okay).
My focus was drawn to John’s words, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20). This is the type of lie that I am speaking of. John reminds us that to say we love God and hate our brother is inconsistent of being a follower of Jesus.
We are masters at playing games with words. Well you might not be, but my heart is very good at justifying myself. I might justify myself by telling myself, “I do not hate my brother, but yes, we do have issues”. The issue is that the word used by John does not give me that wiggle room. Our word for “hate” means “to dislike intensely; feel apathy or aversion towards”. (Logos Bible Dictionary) John’s point is that it is impossible to love God without loving others. Our lack of love is reflective of our old nature, while our love is reflective of our new nature in Christ. It is inconsistent for a follower of Jesus to love God and hate another.
This is a significant expectation considering that we live in a world with over 8 billion sinners! So let me offer three brief Biblical solutions to loving our brother. First, we must attempt to resolve the issue one-on–one, preferably in person. We must also remember to come not as a prosecuting attorney, but as a brother humbly attempting to reconcile the relationship. I prefer starting with the question like, “Have I offended you in some way?”. This is almost always the most effective solution. Yes, it works and relationships are strengthened.
Second, we can choose to let the offense go. We choose to “cover it in love.” There are many offenses that we should let go. It could be we hear something that was said behind our back. Yes, that might qualify as gossip but we may choose to let it go. Now, it is easy to apply this approach to every offense because it avoids resolving the conflict. Let me offer one caveat; if you keep thinking, talking or treating the other person in an unloving way, then you need to meet face to face.
This third step comes into play after unsuccessful attempts to resolve the relationship one-on-one. You ask others to help you work this out. If this fails to resolve the issue, or there are other factors that prevent resolution, then the offended believer must forgive the offense without resolution.
I know that this can be challenging. Yet, if we truly desire to grow in Christ, we need to take the garbage out regularly!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson