” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:36-40. (Paraphase)
“You have heard that it was said ‘ Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you : Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43.
“Love thy neighbor ” is a term that almost become cliched in modern society these days. I have a neighbor that my daughter gave a car for free for her personal use that she ultimately sold at a large profit to feather her bank account. As a Christian this act of unthankfulness initially drove me into a short period of anger and resentment until I was confronted with reading from God’s Holy word these two passages. After much prayer I recognized that I needed God alone to confront this rebellous neighbor . My job was to forgive this neighbor and to express his love in christian action- assisting them with food,and random acts of kindness and christian love. My job was not to try to fix them- that’s Gods job alone.
In a time when many christians rarely see their neighbors or neighbors are thought of nuicances with barking dogs and noisy children, how can we possibly love our friends and neighbors?
Love thy Neighbor and for the purpose of this blog “friends” was Jesus’s answer to the Pharasees, who asked Him about the greatest commandment in the Old testament canon. ( See above). These religious leaders of Jesus day had almost made an art form of classifying all the varous laws and giving them relative degrees of importance, so in asking Jesus this question, their aim was to test Him. His answer stunned them : Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is to Love your neighbor (and your friend) as your self.’ All the law and the Phophets hang on these two commandments.
Jesus was summing up the law in these two statements. If we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, loving our neighbors and friends is the natural result. The question we need to ask ourselves is then is , who are our neighbors or friends, and how do we love him or her?
Let’s look at who Jesus says our neighbor (or friend) is: “You have have heard that it was said, ‘ Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ Matthew 5:43.
Is our neighbor more than the guy next door? Could he or she be someone in our community or almost anyone we meet? Could our enemies also be our neighbors? Jesus says that it is so. But how can we love someone who acts hatefully toward us?
When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we grow to recognize that everyone is part of His creation. Will everyone be in heaven? No, but that is not because God does not desire that to be the case. His word tells us that God desires that all would be saved ( 1 timothy 2:4). So it is clear that all that God sees all of us as potential children. Because God lives outside of time and has seen the end from the beginning. He also knows who will choose salvation and who will not, For all chistians , that is where faith comes in. It is not for us to know who will choose Him and who will not, but we are called to be his witnesses. In order to fulfill that calling, we must love others enough to desire their salvation just as He does.
Here is the good news for those who find this teaching difficult : Nowhere does it say that we have to like our neighbor!
As for the part of this formula, we turn to these words from the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:8-10. Paul says in Romans:
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ” You shall not committ adultery, ” You shall not steal, ” , “you shall not bear false witness, ” You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment are all summed up in this saying, namely , ” You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
“Love thy neighbor” is not as hard as it looks on the surface. It simply means respecting others and regarding their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own. Keeping this commandment is likely the to require the supernatural assistance of God through Christ can provide.
How can we love friends and neighbors, when that friend or neighbor has hurt you, has a barking dog or screaming kid? Perhaps the secret is to recognize that person is someone as worthy of God’s love as you or I. The bible is very clear in John 1:14 which says : (in paraphrase)
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw glory with our own two eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
Could it be that way we love our neighbor is through getting to know Christ the living Word of God? It is human nature to emulate those we admire most, so in getting to know Christ we’ll discover a God worthy of our whole- hearted love , and our neighbor will see love in us.