1 John 4:20 (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.
When Ireland was invaded by the Normans in 1169, they had no idea that they would have to endure British rule for the next eight centuries. English laws were soon enacted to strip them of their land as well as of their unique cultural heritage, including their customs, language, laws and religion. It was like they were being punished simply for being Irish. People were unimportant in the face of the enforcement of British law.
By the mid-16th century, the fertile lands in the Eastern part of the island were beginning to be confiscated by the British. By 1691, about 80% of the land had been seized. The local people had no choice but to move to Western Ireland, where the poorest farmland of the country was located.
Penal laws followed the confiscation of the land. Irish land could only be possessed by British landowners, and the British bought up large portions of it. The Irish found themselves without property of their own, and because it was a requirement to be a landowner in order to vote, the people couldn't vote in their own country.
The English landlords didn't have time to take care of these large parcels of land, however, so they subdivided them into smaller plots and rented them out to Irish tenants at exorbitant rates, often renting to the very same people who had once owned and worked that same land! These poor farmers had no choice but to pay the high rent with the profits of their yearly harvest. They were literally enslaved to their British landowners. Unfortunately, this didn't leave them enough money to survive the year.
In order to survive, the Irish needed to find an additional crop that could be grown even in the poorest soil. Potatoes to the rescue. There were no other alternatives, and soon the people of Ireland found themselves living off of a diet that centered around potatoes.
According to the foreign rulers, the Irish people were only there to serve them. Law was more important than the people themselves. Though this sounds terrible, we unfortunately still find this mentality in our day and age, even in our own culture. In some cases, people attend churches where doctrine is more important than the people themselves. I have to ask myself: Where is God's love in all of this?
How many people have I not encountered that had been shunned by their own congregations because they were considered "sinners" for not abiding by the rules of their denomination? "No one is talking to me. My circumstances can't allow me to abide by a certain rule. When I ask for help, they shrug their shoulders and tell me: 'You have no faith!'"
I ask you again: Where is God's love in all this? Where is the Christ who they proclaim to worship?
The Pharisees were no better: "Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people." (John 18:14)
Just like in our legalistic denominations, just like in Ireland during British rule, people are not important. They would rather crucify the Son of God in order to maintain their own agenda of doctrines and regulations.
What does our Father in Heaven think of this?
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." (Luke 11:42)
Where there is no love, there is no real worship.
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20)
May we wake up and realize our own condition. Without love, we are truly filled with emptiness. Only by really realizing the love from above can we become pursuers of that same love.
Dear Lord, help us be so filled with love that it overflows onto those around us so we can share the plan of salvation with them. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.