1 John 4.7-12
So often people of faith come across to the rest of the world, that is to uncommitted people, to agnostics and atheists, as angry, impatient, self-righteous, hyper-critical of others, unpleasant, even hateful. And when religious people come across like that - whether it’s you and I, or other people in the media and so on - it gives entirely the wrong impression of God, for God is love. Everyone who loves is a child of God - that is someone made in God’s image, whether they realise it or not. But the unloving know nothing of God.
In an episode of the famous television comedy Fawlty Towers Manuel the Waiter is told by the proprietor of the hotel, Basil Fawlty, that if anyone asks him about a little secret flutter Basil has had on the horses Manuel is to say, ‘I know nothing.’
Unfortunately one of the guests is in on the secret, too. He is a long-standing elderly resident called The Major. Cornered by Sybil, his ferocious wife, who suspects that he has been gambling again, Basil is forced to ask the Major to hide his winnings in his jacket pocket. But later, of course, when Sybil has gone, the Major can’t remember being given the money and refuses to hand it over.
‘Tell him,’ Basil says to Manuel. ‘Tell him that the money is mine, that it’s the money I won on the horses.’ But, just as he was instructed, Manuel will only say, ‘I know nothing.’
Well, a great many religious people are likely the clueless Manuel. When it comes to God’s love we know nothing. In fact, the God we love becomes - if we’re not careful - a figment of our own imaginations. We conjure up the God we want to believe in, a God who approves of us and disapproves of people who are different from us.
Of course, God has never been seen by anyone, so it’s an understandable mistake. But the true nature of God is revealed by Jesus’ death on the cross. His sacrificial death, which he willingly entered into out of love for us - even before we began to love him back - shows us what God is really like. And if God has thus loved us,we also must love one another if we want God to dwell in us, and if we want his love to be made perfect in our lives as it was in Jesus.
John comes to these conclusions because - even since writing the Gospel - he has had the misfortune to minister to a divided church where people who claimed to be closer to God than everyone else were sowing hatred and mistrust instead of love. People like that, says John, know nothing of God.