Have you ever felt beat up after reading something in God’s Word? Sometimes when I feel like I’ve been an A+ Christian, I read something that exposes the ungodly things in me that I’ve shoved way down out of sight. And it hurts. It hurts my pride knowing that I still struggle.

This verse gave me a black eye:
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20, HCSB).

When I read those words last week, I was overwhelmed with conviction. I began to argue with the Spirit: “I do love. I love God with a love so deep I don’t fully understand it. I fail constantly, I fall into the same things over and over, yes, but I can honestly say that I long to please God with my life. I want to know more about Him. I want to hear His voice. I want to worship Him without inhibition. I can’t imagine life without Him.”

But the voice of God stopped me in my tracks: “But you do not love others the way I’m asking you to. And if you don’t love them, then you don’t love Me.”

I was speechless. I couldn’t argue because He’s right. It’s so easy to love God. He’s good. He’s faithful. He offers grace to the most undeserving. How could I boast in something so logical, so natural? What I need to strive for is showing real love to my family, my coworkers, those I admire, and those I can’t in my own strength stand to be around; the poor, the wealthy, the tolerable and intolerable, seasoned Christians and those riding the fence—all of them. And not that fake love I’ve gotten so good at expressing. It’s got to be honest and as real as the love God has shown me.

I’m swallowing for the first time the fact that my relationship with God cannot be whole unless I love others the way I’m supposed to. Loving others doesn’t just impact those I’m loving; it affects the most intimate and significant relationship I have. Stepping outside myself and truly loving people allows me to draw nearer to God—and that is the profound desire of my heart.