At the time I asked Lynda to marry me, she had four cats (mercifully pared down from five). I was not an animal owner, having been traumatized enough as a child by goldfish, turtles, and crickets. And a kitten. So, I respectfully reminded her that the cats had to go when we got married. Oooops!
I mentioned this at the time to a wise friend from my church, and she chided me with a maxim that has come in handy over the years: “Love me, love my cats.” The principle is that when you love someone, you should be willing to love whom he or she loves. To demean the object of one’s love is to demean the lover.
This can be especially tricky in a blended family. Sometimes it’s difficult to blend, especially when older children or ex-spouses are involved. When you marry, you marry the whole family.
The same holds true in the family of God. To begin with, one cannot enter God’s family or claim to love God without loving His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21, italics added). He also said, “If God were your Father, you would love me . . . ” (John 8:42). God says, in essence, “Love me, love my Son.”
When someone is born into God’s family, he or she becomes a member of the most extended, blended, easily offended family there is! It includes persons of every ethnicity, nation, personality, age, and economic status. And we are called to love each other! In fact, the Apostle John said in 1 John 4:21, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” In other words, “Love me, love my children.”
OK, that may seem logical and relatively easy to work with. But what about those who are outside of God’s family? Surely we have no obligation towards them. After all, they don’t love God, so why should we bother with them? Are we off the hook?
Not surprisingly, God has an answer for that: “Love me, love everyone!” And He sets the example: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And it’s a lofty example, too. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially [not “only”] to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10, brackets added). So, we are not off the hook.
The Christian’s love for God, if properly lived out, will affect his or her relationships with people. Although the believer is called to love everyone, not everyone loves the believer. Jesus does not paint a pretty picture in John 15: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me” (vv. 18, 21). “Hate me, hate my family.”
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