As we see so often in the whole of the Bible, in these verses John takes us to the heart of the matter – those who truly love God obey His commands. He has shown us elsewhere that being “in Jesus” and Jesus being “in” us is not some sort of metaphor or symbolism, but spiritual reality. We are called God’s children because that is what we are! And here we are told in no uncertain terms that “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.” In fact, we will see soon enough that if we claim to know God but do not love we are fooling only ourselves.
“Love” is, to put it plainly, the hallmark of a follower of Jesus. When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest, he responded with two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40.Some people would say that the difference in importance between these two commandments is marginal – even razor thin. And, indeed, these very words of Jesus would seem to confirm this view. The commandment to love our neighbor is, after all, “like” the commandment to love God. The Greek word here is ὅμοιος (homoios) which means “like, similar, or resembling.” It has the same root as English words like homogeneous, which means “of the same kind”, or “alike.”
Others would say that there is a wide gulf between these two commands in terms of priority or importance. In Luke chapter 14, for example, Jesus gives us a clear picture of where our priorities need to be if we want to follow him. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27.Personally, I believe that both views are true. It’s what we call a paradox – “something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible.”
Loving others, as we continue to see in John’s first letter, is the tangible evidence of our love for God. In this sense, the two commands are inextricably linked. Not even a razor blade can be wedged between the two!!
At the same time, we serve a jealous God - El Kanah. He is a God who calls us to die to ourselves, and instead to live for the one who died on the cross for us. The Bible is certainly a story about God’s redemptive plan for mankind. But it is primarily a story about Jesus and his kingdom. It is a story about the glory of God!!When Moses encountered the burning bush he was told to take off his sandals (because he was on holy ground) and he hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The encounter was not so much about Moses as it was about the glory of God.
When Moses protested that he was not qualified for the mission (“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?")” God answered “I will surely be with you ….” The story that was coming was not about how Moses saved his people. Moses was not qualified for such a mission. God picked Moses because he was unqualified -- the story was about God’s glory.When Moses asked God what he should say if people asked for the name of the one who sent him, the Lord responded “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” – I am who I am (or I am who I will be). God owed the people no explanation. He had no need to justify himself. The story, after all, is about his glory.
If God spoke the universe into existence, then he could have through a mere spoken word moved the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. But this would not have served his purpose. Instead, he sent Moses to Pharaoh to show Pharaoh the wonders that God had enabled Moses to do and to demand the release of his people in the name of Adonai. But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go. God wanted things to get worse for the Israelites before they got better.
It is not that God did not love his people. But, their freedom from bondage was the subplot. The story was about the glory of God.
When Moses appeared before Pharaoh and told him of God’s demand, Pharaoh responded “Who is Adonai that I should obey him when he says to let Israel go?” Pharaoh would find out soon enough more about Adonai than he ever wanted to know. Knowing Adonai would cost Pharaoh and the Egyptians dearly. The story, after all, is about God’s glory.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Adonai.’”