1 John 4:20 Meaning of Verse and Simple Commentary

1 John 4:20
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Explanation and Commentary of 1 John 4:20

God is love. Jesus said that the whole law can be summed up by the greatest commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37). He added that the second was like it, to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:38).

Jesus had a radical view of how we would treat people and just exactly who our neighbor was. He said love your neighbor, love your brother, even love your enemies. He also defined hatred much more broadly than most of us care to. In Jesus’ view, anything short of total forgiveness and love toward another might as well be hatred, and hatred might as well be murder (Mt 5:43-48).

If you don’t love everyone with the love of the Father, the kind Paul describes in 1 Cor 13, then you should consider that you don’t love anyone, because even the ones you think you love, you might only love them in a human way, falling short of what Jesus commands. If you stop getting the emotional benefit of the relationship, human love will turn to hate.

Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 John 4:20

#1 “Whoever claims to love God…”
It is easy to claim to love God, but what you believe will be betrayed by how you live. If you love God, you will be a certain kind of person.

#2 “…yet hates his brother or sister is a liar.”
You cannot truly love God, and then have anything but love for all people. Consider hatred to be anything less than love. If you understand God’s love for you, then you can see the way to total love and forgiveness for others who cannot truly harm you because you are in Christ. You lie to yourself and others when you say you love God while not loving people.

#3 “For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen,”
In 1 John 3:11-12 says, “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.” At first glance, it is astounding that John would set God’s love against murder as the alternative. “Love your brother, not like Cain who murdered his.” Most won’t admit that there is no middle ground. They desire to hold to their resentments and bitterness, calling it “intense dislike, but not hate.” John says that person is a “liar.”

#4 “cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
Why is it easy to say we love God? It’s just words. He’s invisible. Maybe we can create him in our own image and make a pet God out of him. But people are right there in the flesh to be what they truly are and force you to deal with them that way. Can you love them? You have to have truly experienced real love in Christ. 1 Jn 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Bible Study on 1 John 4:20

Expert Overview of 1-3 John

Biblical Translations of 1 John 4:20

NIV
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

NLT
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

ESV
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

KJV
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

NKJV
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

1 John 4:20 Meaning and Commentary

About the Author of this Blog Post
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.