Love Your Neighbor!

This past week I went on an internet ‘fast’, so I did not send a command last week and am sending two this week!
This week’s command goes hand in hand with last week’s command of ‘Love the Lord.’“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:39-40). Loving God and loving others as yourself is the basis and ‘spirit’ of all the words of the law and prophets. 
This command is like the first great commandment, because if we love God, we will love our brethren. If we do not love our brethren then we walk in darkness and we do not know God.“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh in darkness , and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (I John 2:9-11). We cannot say we are filled with the love of God if we do not love others, they cannot be separated.
It is interesting that the command is to love others as we love ourselves. How much do we love ourselves? Sometimes it is painfully obvious how much I love myself. I often show love to myself by putting priority on my schedule, taking times of rest, thinking self-exalting thoughts, making sure I am well fed ; ), feeding myself spiritually, exercising, and doing things I enjoy. Basically, I do things that make me feel spiritually, emotionally, and physically good. How can I love my neighbor in this same way?
-I can make my schedule flexible so that I am available to serve others, rather than plowing over others to fulfill my goals.
-Consider others who need rest and help them to find it, instead of making sure that I am well-rested first.
-Encourage others with kind and loving words, rather than focusing inwardly.
-Giving others spiritual encouragement and coming alongside those who are struggling.
In what ways do you love yourself, good or bad, and how can you love your neighbor in a similar way? We tend to put ‘me’ first and it often can leave others hurt and mistreated. It goes along with ‘doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Easier said than done, but God has given us His Word and many wonderful examples of what this looks like. One familiar example is the story of the Good Samaritan.
A lawyer asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’. Jesus responded with this parable: A man was traveling from Jerusalem when he got attacked by thieves who brutally beat him, stripped him and left him to die in the streets. But soon a priest came by! What luck for such a pious man to come by the way! Yet, at the sight of the man he made his way across the street to avoid the dying man and continued on his way. Later a man from the tribe of Levi strolled up, but he too, looked at the helpless man and went to the other side of the street and took no thought for the victim. Then a Samaritan came by, but Samaritans and Jews did not get along at all, so surely this man would do like the other religious men and disregard him. However, coming upon this dying soul, he had compassion on him. He used his own wine and oil to treat the wounds and took the time to wrap the wounds up. He then set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he left the man to rest and heal and made sure to take care of all the necessary payment. Jesus asked the lawyer, ‘Who was his neighbor?’ When he replied, ‘The Samaritain,’ Jesus said to go and do likewise. (see Luke 10:25-37). This is a touching story. It wasn’t the highest ranking religious minister who showed love, and it wasn’t the holy Levite either. It was the one who had probably been disdained by men just like this one from Jerusalem. Who do we love? Only those who love us? Only those who can repay us? Only those who are in our ‘circle’? The example Jesus gave was to give of ourselves to even those who are our enemies. If we only love those who love us we are no better than the ungodly sinner (see Matthew 5:46-48).
Working at a pregnancy center, the client demographic is not exactly the kind of people I am usually surrounded by. One day I came in to see a young man, who looked a little unkempt and I judged him as a ‘hoodlum’ by his attire. Being the good Christian that I am *ahem*, I gave him a bright smile and greeting, meanwhile suspecting that him and his girlfriend were there for a pregnancy test. Another gal and I began talking with him and discovered him to be a very kind, intelligent, and pleasant young man. I soon found that my first judgment was wrong and that he was just like any other person who needs love, a Savior, and someone to care about him without judging him as a hoodlum. When he left, I felt compassion for him and his girlfriend, wishing that they knew Jesus Christ. However, my first response was that of the priest and Levite, who seeing something distasteful, quickly turned away. It is easy to love our friends, but what about those who God puts in our paths that need compassion and someone to help them find life eternal?
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).Jesus is telling us to love others as He has shown love to us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a). God gave as a sign of His love. He gave His Son, Jesus gave His own life for sinners, He gives us unconditional love, gave us His Word, gave us the Holy Spirit, gave us power through Christ, gave us forgiveness of sins, gave us mercy as far as the east is from the west, and gave us compassion when we didn’t deserve it. Are we giving? Or are we taking? Are we showing mercy, compassion, unconditional love, and forgiveness to those around us? This is where the rubber meets the road with loving our neighbor.
-Do you only love those who love you?
-Do you consistently show unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion?
-Would your family say that you love them as much as you love yourself? Ouch with a capital O.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:10-11).
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide

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