You will be known by your love.

A most beautiful group of women recently gathered in my living room, snuggled under blankets, feasted on Blueberry Crisp and Scandinavan Swimmers, and dove headlong into life together.


We spoke of tragedy and sin and hope and fear. Many are headed off to college this coming year and are experiencing anxiety in the face of the unknown; some have just led girls at Young Life camps and are dealing with the weight of leading others and fielding questions they don’t know the answers to; numerous are facing life circumstances that would leave anyone reeling.

One of the girls brought up a challenging verse that she was confronted with, and so we unpacked 1 John 3, which has these most difficult words folded in:

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15

In a world where the word “hate” is so carelessly flung around {as in, “the guy I like wants to date my friend; I hate her.”}, the girls were rightly concerned.  They had used this word generously. And more pressing, with what our nation is experiencing and the hatred that is so clearly felt and expressed by so many toward authorities and between people groups and amongst individuals, this excerpt of God’s word jarred the young women sitting in the circle. Were they murderers? Did they lack eternal life? How is it that the Bible could incite fear of condemnation rather than offer confirmation of love?

And where exaclty does all this hatred come from?

I submit that at the root of our hatred toward good things {ie: the people God created} is in fact fear. Fear for safety, fear for lack of control, fear of scarcity, fear for life, fear of death. Whatever threatens us and incites fear, incurs hate. We hate that which violates what we love, and when we love only what benefits us and our comfortable lives, then our hatred reveals our self-centered motives and is directed toward people and God. However, when our love for God and others outweighs all things, then we will hate anything that violates our Savior and our proverbial brother, and our righteous anger will be well placed in the camp of the enemy.

The opposite of love is not hate, but fear.  It is the tool of Satan used since the beginning of time. He had Adam and Eve fear that God was withholding something, fear that they were missing out, fear that God was not good. Fear. It lies and it divides.

So if this verse in 1 John was inciting condemnation and fear in these young women, and yet that is the opposite of God’s character, then we had to be reading it wrong. As with reading or hearing anything, context must be considered, and so we rewound and began at the start of 1 John 3 which opens like this:

“Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.”  1 John 3:1

The verse in question is introduced not so much with a stark warning about hatred, but with a glorious invitation to life from a loving Father.  Scripture tells us that Jesus, His beloved Son {who by the way had no shortage of reasons to hate those who wronged Him and yet offers no shortage of kindness and saving grace}, demonstrates what it looks like to live the live of the beloved. By the power of the Holy Spirit our helper, Jesus acts in accordance with God the Father and lays his entire life down for those he loves.

This mysterious three-in-one God is coaxing us into a glorious, hate-free, forgiveness-filled, freedom-forged life.

Eternal life starts now; it is not just a destination off in the distance! To embrace Jesus is to empty our arms of hatred, that poison that we serve up for someone else but end up drinking ourselves. To embrace Jesus is to forgive as many times as we sense those feelings of hatred rising up in us. Because we have to? No, because we get to.

Love and hate cannot coexist. It is just a fact. 

So, that verse in question? It is not a condemnation; it is a litmus test.  As we so fill ourselves with whatever is good and noble and true – as we drink deeply from the living water by drawing near to Jesus –  the hatred and the fear in us will be diluted and washed away. We will be cleansed by the washing of the Word of God. “Eternal life abiding in us” absorbs hatred by way of the blood of Jesus, who gave himself for us as a love offering.

Let us extinguish hate not by our own white knuckling will, but by the power and love and grace of Jesus. By the great and glorious quenching power of His love at work in us. Let us draw away and listen to Him, hand Him our burdens and our cares, discover the new name He calls us, and live life free of fear and full of freedom.

I pray we would be a people who are marked by our love. The active, boisterous, joy-filled, fearless kind that gives voice to the oppressed, love to the unloved, and forgiveness to the undeserved.

After all, we will be known by our love.

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