14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
This passage has two messages for us. The first is that the world will hate those who try to carry out the mission of Jesus – work for love and justice. Justice for the poor was a major work of Jesus. The early Christians were known by their love for one another and the way in which they shared what they had so that no one went without. The first deacons were named so that there would be no discrimination between the Hellenist and Hebrew widows in the distribution of food. Justice was important.
The problem comes because it could mean sacrifice for an individual or a group. And there’s the rub! We live in a world of “us” and “them.” When Jesus said that we must feed the poor or shelter the homeless, he never said that those we helped were friends or neighbors. He didn’t say that they should be worthy of our help, he just said to help.
So often, we are given messages that tell us we should hate a particular individual or group. How does that fit in to Jesus’ command to love others as he loved us? And this takes us to the second part of this quote. If we hate, then we are murderers! I don’t think any of us would think of ourselves as murderers. If we deny justice because we are unable to “love” others, we could very well be murderers. People denied access to adequate food, shelter, clean water, medical care die at a greater rate than those who have what they need.
We all need to look into our hearts and see if we are acting as Jesus would want us to act, or are we putting ourselves and our wants first.
Lord, you have given us so much, but not all of us have been given the same advantages as others. Give us a spirit of generosity to help those in need without regard to who they are or where they come from. Amen.