Do you love God? You might say, “Of course I love God! I’m a Christian. I’m a pastor. I’m a missionary.” Let me phrase the question differently. Do you love the people God loves?
The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote about a shoemaker named Martin. As Martin was reading his Bible one evening, he fell asleep and dreamed that Jesus said, “Martin, I am coming to visit you tomorrow.”
The next day, Martin was excited to welcome Jesus. As he worked, he kept an eye on the street outside his shop. While Martin waited, he saw an old soldier named Stephen shivering in the cold. He invited Stephen inside to drink some hot tea he had prepared for Jesus.
When a woman passed by carrying a baby in the cold, Martin rushed out to offer her a blanket. Later, Martin invited a hungry teenager to eat some of the soup he planned to serve Jesus for lunch.
To Martin’s disappointment, Jesus never showed up. As Martin closed his shop in the evening, he laughed, “How silly for me to think that Jesus would visit a lowly shoemaker. It was just a dream!”
That night, Martin again fell asleep while reading his Bible. Again, he dreamed that he was in his shop, but this time the shop was filled with people. Suddenly, Stephen the soldier stepped forward and said, “Martin, do you recognize me? I am Jesus!” From the corner, the woman with the baby stepped forward and said, “Thank you for the blanket. My name is Jesus.” The hungry teenager said, “I am Jesus.”
Martin woke from his dream, picked up his Bible and began to read where he had stopped:
,“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-36).
1 John 4
The apostle John wrote that the test of my love for God (who I cannot see) is my love for other people (who I can see).
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
That is hard! Loving God seems easy. He is perfect; He is lovely. Loving people is hard. People are flawed and often difficult to love. But John says that if I love God, I will love my brother. He puts it quite bluntly:
“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).
Do I love God? If I love God, I will love my brother. Like Martin the shoemaker, I will treat others as I would treat Jesus.
God of infinite love, help me to love others with your love. Help me to see others through your eyes. Help me to be your hands serving a needy world. In the name of the one who gave his life that I could be saved, Amen.
For more on what it means to truly love our neighbor, read Lesson 8 (“Holiness is Loving Your Neighbor”) in the Shepherds Global Classroom course, ,Doctrine and Practice of the Holy Life.