For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (1 John 3:11)
What is the beginning? From the beginningless beginning, before all things, before all beginnings, the Holy Trinity was... and loved. The very nature of God teaches us to love one-another. God loves Himself perfectly, and as a perfect lover of Himself, He communicates with and submits to His own nature - each person equally loving and submitting to the other. Before all things, there was love.
And God made man, in his image and likeness he made him. (Gen 1:26) And from this beginning of man, the created loved the Creator, and the created loved all possessing his nature, as the Creator loved all three persons possessing His nature.
To be in the image of God is to love as God. From the beginning, man was created to love. Love, like a flame, can spread to others without itself being diminished. So God created and loved his creation, and His love for Himself was in no way diminished, and man, whose nature was created to love himself, loved himself (that is, all those with his nature), and loved God, and man's love emulated God, whose love can fill all things and is in no way diminished. We love Him because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) He loved us because He first loved Himself. Because of His love, He created us, and from the beginning, we were made to love.
"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him" (1 John 3:19), and we shall be like him, because we love. It is our nature to love. Our nature compels us to breathe, and eat and drink, and in the same way to love. And what happens to us if we do not live according to our nature?
"He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:14-15)
To not love is to not be human. From the beginning, the FIRST PRINCIPLE of being human is to love, as God loves. Any abrogation of this principle leads to death.
God is love, and man is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, to love is not a command, it is a principle of the existence of our nature. To "die the death" is to cease being what we were created for - to love, and therefore to cease being human. To have "eternal life abiding in him" man must love, and his love must be as the flame of God's love - spreading to all things without discrimination, and in no way ever being diminished.
Man's trek through this life is to learn to love as God loves, and in knowing love by loving, knowing God, who is love, and thus fulfilling his destiny: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3 )
The principle of love is simple, since God is simple, but the action of love is complex and varied. Hate is also simple; It is the absence of love, but the action of hate, is complex and varied. It is expressed as "disliking" someone, envy, calumny, thoughtlessness, greed, and violence against persons, and a thousand other thoughts and actions that bring darkness instead of light to the soul.
The first recorded action of hate was that of Cain, "who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous". (1 John 3:12) The tyrant of envy, one of hate's many children, possessed him, and Cain killed his brother, and in so doing, killed his own soul.
Brethren, we are at the very threshold of the Great Fast, a time when we should be changing to be more like God. Let us make it our goal to pass through Lent in such a way that we pass from our deep darkness into more of the light, closer to the life God created us for. Let this goal be fulfilled by our passing from hate into love, and in so doing, we will have "passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (1 John 3:14)
Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
1Jn 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
1 John 3:11-20 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.