Beloved, we love God because
he first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen.
This is the commandment we have from him:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Luke 4
What does it mean to love your brother? For me I take ‘brother’ in this context to be metaphorically inclusive of humanity. In order to love God, we must love people. But what does this love look like since we can’t possibly know and love every person on Earth and claiming to be able to do so would be insincere. It’s easy for love to become an abstraction, the ideal of loving everyone. This is something that I have spent a long time reflecting about, and though my answer may not be the best or most complete, this is how I understand ‘love your brother’ to work. It would be impossible to love everybody the same because I love my sisters more than I would love someone that I’ve never met. This leads me to think that love must be inherently tied to relationship.
Perhaps this is the starting point. We love those whom we enter into relationships with, be they romantic relationships or friendships. We trust others with parts of ourselves, and we collect the parts of others with which we have been trusted. Maybe from this foundation we find ourselves necessarily living a more compassionate life. As Christians, we are called to enter into relationships with people: to know them, understand their perspectives, and to love them.
This idea of loving your brother safeguards Christianity from becoming a strictly monastic faith of private meditation because part of love, beyond relationship, is action. I love the expression “pray with your feet.” It makes faith more real, something that can be grasped, understood, in a very profound and beautiful way. When we truly love others, we find ourselves acting out of compassion on their behalf. We find ourselves speaking for those without a voice, standing up for those who have been downtrodden by society; we find ourselves making the Kingdom of God tangible and real. I think it’s this love that is liberating; it sets us free, and we are continually set free from our shortcomings, mistakes, and societal pressures when we walk in love with others.