20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
1 John 4:20 (NIV)
I wish that this Scripture were not true. I wish we could love God simply by reading our Bible, praying, and telling God we love Him in solitude, leaving hard-to-love people in the dust.
But we cannot.
We cannot make a distinction between a personal commitment to Christ and our commitment to loving others.
This might be a theological blind spot in our individualistic culture, especially one that emphasizes our “personal relationship with Jesus.”
Couple that with an emphasis on personal holiness and personal sin, and we can, ironically, neglect the poor, needy and oppressed among us.
With these things in mind, we have an uphill battle to recover the heft of 1 John 4:20.
Athlete, it’s not that your relationship with God is not personal. It is. But your relationship with God is not only between you and God, it is between you and others too.
Your relationship with God is public and communal. It is reflected in how you treat your teachers, roommates, janitor, parents, the marginalized on campus and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
As a student athlete, you are in a prime position and age to reflect on and integrate a 1 John 4:20 lifestyle. You are around people all the time.
Since it seems like our beliefs must change before our actions, here are two things to come to believe in order to live out 1 John 4:20:
1) We not only set God apart when we adore Him in isolation, we set Him apart when we love the people He made.
2) A good barometer of how we are treating Jesus at the moment is how well we are treating the person in our presence.
Action: Sit down with a pen and paper (and a candle and coffee, if you like). Write one word to describe how you treat each of your teammates. Look at those words. Those words basically describe how you treat Jesus.