1 John 4:20-21: “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. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Medications often come with side effects. My husband always likes to read the fine print for this very reason. Well, loving God also comes with major side effects: Our hearts get bigger! Embracing the person next to us, treating animals with respect, caring for our environment are the known side effects of loving the Lord. Loving God, we love everything He loves.

As our hearts expand, so expands our horizon. We notice things we haven’t noticed before. We develop empathy. We want to help. We want to be involved. We care. However, our hearts may run into some growth problems along the way when old habits interfere.

In the past I liked working on my own. For the longest time in my career I preferred administrative positions that involved little interaction with people. I have loved God all my life, but I used to be wary of people. And this is a disconnection of sorts because God cares for people. If I really don’t care that much about people, how much do I really care about God?

God has a way of shaking things up, and today I find myself in a profession that has everything to do with people. I sing for a living now, and find the greatest pleasure singing for memory care patients – that’s quite a long shot from avoiding people.

Loving people has brought me closer to God’s heart. And I believe this is the point the apostle John is trying to make in his letter. If we deny ourselves the opportunity to love people, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow closer to God. There are various reasons why we could get stuck, and we will have to face our fears, resentment and past hurts to overcome these barriers. God will help us as we address our issues. He has helped me.

The ripple effect of our love journey goes a long way, even though we are not aware of the blessings we leave in our wake. It may not be easy at all, but it is a wonderful life.

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