Read: Luke 6:38 |
To love my neighbor as myself, do I need to forfeit my own happiness?
Author, teacher John Piper [Link] notes that the first commandment – to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – makes the second commandment – to love our neighbor as yourself- doable and takes away the threat that the second commandment is really the suicide of our own happiness.
The original text uses the Greek word “agape” for love. This term for love describes the kind of love that Jesus has for His Father and us. To be able to “agape-love” our neighbor as ourselves, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own sinful tendencies.
Love yourself or love your neighbor? Jesus would answer “Yes!” We need to do both! He would not give an impossible command.
He draws this commandment from Leviticus 19:9-18. Verse 18 specifically contains the identical phrase found in our key scripture – “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Examining the text in Leviticus as the basis for His statement, we are to show compassion, consideration, forethought, honesty, transparency, impartiality, refusal to bear a grudge or seek vengeance. The daunting “to do” list is actually, what we would want someone to do for us. Thus, what initially seemed impossible now seems plausible.
Be filled and re-filled
As believers, the Holy Spirit fills us and re-fills us daily if we let Him. We need His filling in these polarizing times where an over-emphasis on single-issues becomes the measure of a person. The political party, ethnicity, heritage or any other contrived alienating attribute does not discount each one is our neighbor. Instead of preying on our neighbors differences to disable them, we need to pray for our differences to enable our joint ability to lift up the name of Jesus to a dying world.
Love is a verb. It is an action word. It requires more than a mere Mister Rogers verbalization – “I love you, you love me”. Strive to be the positive end of a magnet that attracts others and not the polar opposite that repels. For as we model the love of Christ, His light will shine through us and thereby attract others to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Good Samaritan parable challenges us to raise our spiritual antennae and stay on the same frequency as God. Jesus used a Samaritan as the central character in this parable, even though the Jews hated the Samaritans. The Good Samaritan noted the need of the injured traveler and filled it by using his time, talent and treasure. Like the Samaritan, tune in to where God has put you as well and then act on it.
Ruth provides an example of committed love. She loved her mother-in-law and stood by her when she did not have to. Ruth’s reward was a marriage to Boaz and becoming a part of the lineage of Christ. On the opposite end, a prickly personality and difficult demeanor does not free us from this command. Christ suffered more than we ever will in loving and dying for those who hated Him. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:7-8a)
What is my identity? Whose am I? I am a child of the King who loves God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength AND I love my neighbor as myself. When we can do all of these at the same time, we will have a truly vibrant personal relationship with God. In fact, when we can do the above the scripture John 14:21 is fulfilled.
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21)
God has set the minimum and maximum standard for all believers by these two commandments. The foundation of the rest of the gospel rests on these two commands, because in Jesus’ own words “There is no commandment greater than these”!
A. Are there any “neighbors” which I need to learn to love?
B. What “neighbors” do I have that I really do not feel like trying to love – because we are too different?
2.Develop – Jesus clearly wants us to follow both commands.
A. When faced with a clear command of God you find is hard to act on such as this, how do you follow His will and not your own?
A. What changes do I need to make in order to “Be” filled, loving, aware and committed?
B. Make a new neighbor acquaintance this week outside of your normal group of friends.