These things I command you, so that you will love one another. – John 15:17
Here our Lord repeats the command to love one another. For it is by love that believers are held together, unified, in fellowship, and strong. Love is the mark of true believers. Jesus continually emphasized the command to love because He knew how many false Christians would arise, how many would offer eloquent words and a put on a good show but could not back up their words with love. This is no different than how God’s holy and divine name is mocked and abused for evil causes, or just as in the Christian church, the holy things, the Word of God and the Sacraments, are misused and trampled upon. The good and holy names of faith, hope, love, and good works are also used as a false show and facade to hide true intentions.
For you see, the devil does not want to be as dark and evil as the truth paints him, so he parades as a good and decent angel, propping himself up as a fine steward of holiness and walking throughout the halls of the church full of piety and tries to make everyone around him believe he is righteous and innocent. But under the facade of his lies, the devil is as dark as our Lord says he is, and his words are deceptive, cunning, and deadly.
Christ Jesus teaches us that it’s not enough that we praise faith and Christ, but faith must also produce Christian fruit. Where these fruits aren’t evident, or where the opposite appears, Christ is most certainly not present. To such people — those who speak of Christ and appear pious yet who produce no fruits, or fruits contrary to Christ — we must say, “Who are you? You speak His name, but you bear no fruits of repentance or love! Where do you come from?”
Some may say that faith justifies without works, which is certainly very true. In fact, this fundamental doctrine should never be torn from the church and replaced with a doctrine of meritorious works. However, how does genuine faith show itself, how is faith revealed in the Christian? Faith must never be useless, deaf, silent, or in decay. Faith is a living tree (Psalm 1), sustained by the blood of Christ, and it necessarily bursts forth with good fruit. This is how we know the difference between genuine faith and false faith. Where there is true faith, it will show itself in a person’s life, and particularly in how a person loves others. And true love is not a selfish love, a conditional love, a love from emotions and the desires of the flesh. True love can only be exhibited in a person of genuine faith because God is exhibiting His love through the person. True there will always be sin and struggle in the Christian life, but the struggle will never be to protect and propagate sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, but to strip away the old nature of hate and malice through daily repentance and time in the Scripture and prayer.
If you struggle to love your neighbor, do not look for ways to justify your murderous hate. Instead, acknowledge your sin, repent, and permit the Word of Christ to kill you so a new person be born, one who seeks to love and help the neighbor and truly live by faith.
Eternal Lord, strengthen my faith so that I might love as You command, and put to death in me any thought, word, or deed which is contrary to Your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.