First John 3:16 says, "In this we know love, that He laid down His life on our behalf." What does it mean to love the brothers? John goes on to explain it. We do not know what love is until we see how the Lord laid down His life for us. John continues by saying, "And we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers." A love for the brothers is a willingness to lay ourselves aside to serve them. It is a willingness to deny oneself for the perfection of others, and a heart that will even lay down one’s very own life for his brothers.
Verse 18 says, "Little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue but in deed and truthfulness." Brotherly love is not just empty words; it is manifested in deed and truthfulness.
First John 4:10-12 says, "Herein is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God has loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." This shows us that our love toward God and our love toward one another cannot be separated. The love of God is perfected in us if we love one another. Today God has put many brothers before us for us to practice our love for God. The love of God is perfected in us if we love one another. We should not say in a vain way that we love God. We must learn to love the brothers in a real way. It is vanity to merely talk about love. Our love for God must be expressed in our love for the brothers.
First John 5:2-3 says, "In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." If we love God, we must keep His commandments. Likewise, if we love God’s children, we must keep His commandments. For example, God’s commandment says that we should be baptized by immersion. But many of God’s children hold different opinions. They say, "I do not agree with baptism by immersion. If you love me, you should not be baptized by immersion. This will hurt me." What should we do? God commands us to leave the denominations and not remain in any sects; however, many of God’s children promote the denominations. They say, "You should not leave the denominations. You will hurt us if you leave the denominations." What should we do? We must leave the denominations if we want to love God, and we should stay in the denominations if we want to love our brothers. This puts us in a dilemma. But verse 2 says, "In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do His commandments." In other words, we cannot say that we love God’s children if we do not keep God’s commandments. Suppose a brother is touched by God to be baptized by immersion. He should be baptized if he loves God’s children. If he is not baptized, he will affect other children of God; they also may choose not to be baptized. This will hinder them from obeying God. This is not the way to love them. If we keep all the commandments of God, we will know that we have loved His children. We will have taken the way of obedience. Now other children can take the same way. If we choose not to obey just because we are afraid that we may hurt them by our obedience, we will have no way to go on, and they will have no way to go on as well. We must learn to love God, and we must keep all His commandments. It is by loving Him and keeping His commandments that we know we love His children. We must keep all the commandments of God. This is the only way to lead God’s children to the way of obedience. Consider another illustration: Suppose your parents do not allow you to believe in the Lord. What should you do? Would you deny the Lord for the sake of loving them? If you listen to them and deny the Lord, you are not practicing love at all! If you do not listen to them and instead believe in the Lord, they may be angry with you for a time, but you have opened a way for them to believe in the Lord. This is love!
However, we must not offend our parents in attitude or in words. It is right for us to obey and follow God’s commandments, but we must not offend our parents in our attitude and our words. We need to hold fast to God’s truth, and at the same time, we need to maintain love. We must learn to be righteous from the very beginning of our Christian life. At the same time, we must not give up love. Do not emphasize the holiness of the life of God at the expense of the love found in His life. These two aspects should balance one another. We want to obey God, but we must obey in an attitude of meekness. Do not offend love in any way. If something needs to be done, do it. But never do anything which offends love. We must be gentle in our attitude. Even when there are differences of opinion among the brothers, we must still remain gentle. We must be full of love when we tell our brother, "Brother, how I wish to see what you have seen. But God has shown me otherwise, and I have no choice but to obey Him." Do not lower the standard of God’s Word; neither offend love. On the one hand, be obedient to God. On the other hand, love. We must show our brother that we are not doing something for ourselves; we are doing it because God has said so. Our attitude must be right, and we must be full of meekness. This will gain many brothers and sisters.
(New Believers Series: Loving the Brothers #22, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)