How do you know you love the family of God?
This is an important question, and not one that I have ever heard asked out loud, at least not phrased in this manner. The far more likely question I think is how do we love, as opposed to how do we know we love?
One is a question of method, approach, application – the other is a question of validation and verification.
One is a matter of content and the other is a matter of qualification.
In any case, the question how do we know we love means there is a benchmark, there is a standard by which to judge whether our love is genuine, whether it meets the criteria, whether it is worthy to be called love at all. To be found wanting or falling short means that whatever we may believe ourselves to be doing, however we may feel about it, we may not have any right to call it love.
When the lines are drawn up clearly, we may find we’ve missed the target entirely.
This ought to be a sobering scenario – thinking we are loving when in fact we are not.
1 John is a fantastic book because it presents many validation, verification, qualification statements that open the floodgates of confidence and assurance for the believer – tests which help us guage our true spiritual condition before God, and also that of others to a certain degree. There are at least ten such statements throughout the short book, each designed to drive the Christian community John was writing to into the light of God so they could make right judgments regarding the many false claims, false teachings, and false Christians who were causing John’s community so much consternation and confusion.
Among these validation statements is 1 John 5:2 “By this we know that we love the Children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”
This is extremely helpful for us to remember as we seek to love others. This verse drives us to the centrality of God and his command in the endeavor of love. We cannot love without God, and we cannot love without obedience. We’d do good to remember this and meditate on our own perspective on love and how God’s commands relate.
The bottom line is this: If we lack love for God OR a posture of obedience to his commandments in our attitude and actions, whatever we imagine our attitude to be toward others – it is something less than or other than love.