What does 1 John 4:20 mean?
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.
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.
NASB: If someone says, 'I love God,' and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
CSB: If anyone says, "I love God," and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has 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?
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?
Verse Commentary:
This verse is the fourth of five times John mentions liars in this letter (1 John 1:10; 2:4, 22; 4:20; 5:10). Love for others, especially fellow Christians, is a primary commandment from Christ. So, a person who exhibits hate for others, but claims to know God, is lying. A liar says he knows God but does not keep His commands (1 John 2:4). A liar denies Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22). Here, we are told that a liar says he loves God but hates other people.

The second part of the verse adds an explanation, moving from the "seen" to the "unseen." It is more difficult to love someone you cannot see than someone you can see. If a person cannot love those they see, they cannot reasonably claim to love those they cannot see. This verse explicitly declares that a person cannot truly love God while hating other people. The person who claims to love God must also show love for others.

This also ties into the idea that, since we cannot see God in all of His divine essence, love is meant to be the way God is seen. Both in ourselves, and in the world, God's love is meant to be the way humanity "sees" Him.
Verse Context:
First John 4:20–21 concludes chapter 4 by clearly stating the importance of love in the life of a believer. Those who cannot love people they can see cannot love a God they cannot see. Anyone who harbors hate, but claims to love God, is a liar. Other parts of this letter have explained that love, shown by Christians, is meant to be how God is ''seen'' by the world.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 4 warns Christians not to accept every claim they hear. Instead, believers are to compare what they hear to the basic truths of the gospel. John then returns to the theme of love, explaining how believers ought to live out the presence of God's love in their lives. In addition, living according to God's love takes away our fear of judgment. In no uncertain terms, those who claim to love God, but hate others, are liars.
Chapter Context:
First John chapter 4 emphasizes the way God's love removes the natural human fear of rejection. Fear is a punishment of its own, and those who do not believe have reason to fear judgment. Believers, on the other hand, have confidence. Not only has Christ forgiven our sins, but He gives us God's love. Following in this love leads to acceptance, which leads to confidence, driving out fear. This passage is the key section of John's letter, explaining how confidence in the life of a believer ought to be accomplished.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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