My son, who is nine, is making the bed. His eight-year-old sister is lying on the covers. By moving the quilt he makes her roll over, and she yelps and sounds just like a monkey. He teases her. She throws a pillow at him and gets him good. He leaps on to the bed. She screams in mock fear, “I am going to die!” They start laughing hysterically.
Do you remember horseplay with your siblings? I sure do, and the memories make me smile. I was looking through some old family photos the other day and found one where my brother had the goofiest expression on his face. It was taken at just the right moment, and when he saw it I had to swear never, ever, cross my heart and hope to die, to reveal to it to others.
My children and my photos reminded me of what John wrote: “We should love each other. We must not be like Cain, who killed his brother… The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters.” (I Jn. 3:11-14a, MSG)
My daughter screamed, “I am going to die.” I said “cross my heart and hope to die” to appease my brother. We knew our brothers loved us and that their threats weren’t real. But John is serious about this love business, as serious as death. He continues:
“Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.” (1 Jn. 3: 14b-15, MSG)
In case we didn’t get it, John adds, “If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (I Jn. 4:20,21, MSG)