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“To love the invisible God, you must first love your visible neighbor.” ~Unknown

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” ~ 1 John 3:17 NKJV

After Wednesday’s blog post on benevolence, I’ve been wrestling through the idea that loving God and loving your neighbor are linked together.

If I love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, that love can’t help but overflow to those around me. My heart is changed and I am moved by compassion when I see the needs of others. My mind realizes that only God’s grace is keeping me from walking in their shoes. My strength needs something tangible to do in order to demonstrate my love for God. 

Jesus said that whatever I do for others in need, it’s like I’ve done it for Him (Matthew 25:40). Who does “others” include? Absolutely everyone. Including my enemies and those who disagree with my beliefs and political viewpoints. Not an easy thing to do. But Paul wrote to do everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). So, by loving others, I’m showing love to God.

The opposite of that statement is also painfully true. By refusing to love others and meet their physical needs, it’s as though I’m refusing to love God. (1 John 3:17; Matthew 25:43) Ouch! Definitely NOT something I want to be accused of.

Yet, what about all those people who do good things for the poor around the world … but don’t believe in God? Certainly there are some who give to charity for the tax benefits or to look good in the eyes of others. Others give as a way to rebuild a reputation, appease their conscience, or earn brownie points with an unknown “higher power.”

But I think that those who have learned to truly love their visible neighbor are just one step away from learning to love the invisible God.

After all, “we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

What about you? Do you think it’s possible to love God and not love your neighbor? Why or why not? Is it possible to love your neighbor and not love God?

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