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If You Do Not Love Your Neighbor Whom You CAN See – Can You Love God?

If you do not love your neighbor – the author of “1 John” makes a blunt and very logical analysis of our emotional attachments – or professed attachments. And it involves neighbors.

if you do not love your neighbor

If you do not love your neighbor (“your brother”) whom you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see?  (1 John 4:20)

Well, John, that’s easy! We do it all the time. God is always here – our neighbors aren’t so near and obvious. Plus – no offense – but God is just generally “nicer,” easier to deal with, than many of our neighbors.

But no, this John, who sees much more clearly than most of us, sees it differently.  After all, his Teacher Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself.

If you cannot love the present real persons in your life, you cannot be truly loving the not-so-present, not so in-your-face God that you imagine you are loving.

I say “you” because John said “you”, and because we must feel it personally. But it’s really WE. How can WE love the invisible God if we do not love our very visible brother / neighbor?

Now how does that logic apply to a slightly different situation – what about persons whose lives intersect yours only because some tv network, or preacher, or politician, or popular magazine happened to feature them – in order to make money or otherwise manipulate us?

Truth be told, some of those distant persons are suffering because of OUR activity / inactivity or because of deeds being done in our name.

For example, many of the people President Trump is excluding from the US, people from largely Muslim or largely Arabic nations, are in fact fleeing danger and chaos our bombs and invasions and armament sales have helped create.

Nevertheless the Bible does seem to put some emphasis on proximity. That might be just because back in those days most people never had any practical awareness of people who lived more than a few miles away.  If you were going to love, it had to be people nearby.  But certainly we are expected to think and act in love toward fellow humans wherever they are.

What does “love your neighbor” mean?  Well, surely it starts with attention.

Still – that word “neighbor”. What about my literal neighborhood? My own city?

  • Kids living near US – near you – are going without school textbooks or other necessities of teaching and learning, while enormously costly mansions are being built out on the edges of town, or down the highway.
  • People in nursing homes close to you are not getting the care and courtesy that human decency demands, so their relatives have to go in and take care of them, even though thousands of dollars are changing hands every month to pay for that care and decency tRemember those in prison as if bound with them.hey do not get.
  • Our great nation is locking up a much higher percentage of the young people from your city than is the case in comparable cities of any other ‘advanced’ nation.
  • People who wait on you as fast-food clerks or bank tellers are frequently, literally, not making a living wage.

This clear Biblical moral priority bites all of us. It is not easy to know how to love some people.


It’s much easier to walk on by people just a few miles from us, and instead be angry and disturbed about – for example – a far distant Terri Schiavo case (2005). I do know that people all over my part of the state were discussing that case, and often with considerable emotion, while almost no-one was – or is – talking about

  • the school funding crisis,
  • or the lousy care in some nursing homes,
  • or the impossible-to-live-on incomes of so many people here,
  • or the frightening number of our friends and neighbors who are now or have recently been in jail or prison.

I do know that this is a prominent Gospel theme.

  1. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  2. And John said, “If you do not love your [neighbor] whom you can see, how can you [claim to] love God whom you cannot see?”
  3. And Jesus said, “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”
  4. Jesus also said, “You ought to have done this and not left the other undone.”

So I respond with a modification of the prayer one father said to Jesus in Mark 9 (“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”).

Lord, I do believe in and love You.
I deeply respect your intelligence and insight, your moral priorities.
Help me to love and respect you – and therefore my neighbors – more practically and effectively, more presently, more fully, more realistically here where I live.


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  • I came here looking for help to explain to my family that to Hate me means they don’t or can not love God. But it seem much is done to change the concept form love all people to just love your fellow believers. Now maybe they don’t believe so hating me is ok for them but not me. I need to love them regardless of their feeling for me.
    Just as we need to love our past president no matter what kind of fraudulent behavior he committed. I mean for real he no Christian, not like Carter a man that loved his country and its people, no matter how much hate was spewed at him. Are we so blind to think that there are no people worth saving in countries that might hate us. I know I can not go back to the country my family came from except to visit. As a matter of fact i can not go to the country i was born in because of their racism. Stopping the persecuted form coming is creating more enemies mostly brown and black people are the one needing America’s help. And he seem to want to make enemies of them. Please stop hating the oppressed and claim you love GOD. I mean really women and children being robbed and raped any you would have us turn ourback on them. Like the Jewish children we sent back to Europe to be killed. Its like you read the article and missed the point entirely.

  • This is a good article, but what is your purpose of bashing the President regarding not allowing certain people into the country. The President took an oath to protect the country; it’s his job to make sure not just anyone — especially those from country who have plans to harm people here — into the country. September 11, 2001, ring a bell with you? Loving in a country with legal borders has no bearing on someone loving people. Don’t lock your doors to your home if you’re willing to “love” all people. Love people, but protect those you love.

    • he took an oath to protect and defend the constitution something he and most politicians don’t care about and have not for the last 100 years when Wilson sold out and did not defend our constitution.

  • Just simply pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your steps when it comes to dealing with them Mentally and physically

  • Thanks for the edifying verses,my problem is,how do you deal with troublesome neighbors who attack you and misinterpret every good gesture of yours

    • the scriptures should not be amended to personally address one’s plight or interest. although we are our brother’s keeper, we can’t fix their generation curses, we may be struggling with ours also. and the only way out is to seek Christ. there is a time for everything.a time to suffer a time to be happy, a time for sadness. once in Christ we could ride these storms, Christ equipt us to ride these storms not to take our brothers and sisters happiness. and this should not stop us from sharing each other pain regardless of distances. love thy neighbor as thy self does not mean you give them your entire paycheck, how will they grow in Christ on such an easy journey.