LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR

Main Text: Luke 10: 25-37

In this story, the focus of Jesus is on love. But it starts with the commandments of God. As originally intended, these are the laws that God gave to the children of Israel to establish a good relationship with Him. And there so many of them recorded in the Bible.

In fact, there are 613 commandments in the Bible. How feasible is it for man to remember, talk less obey theses numerous commandments?

Before Jesus came, the children of Israel struggled to obey God’s commandments.

To be sure Jesus did not come to destroy the laws of God but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17-20: 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

But we are no longer under the law but under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3:10-14 : 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.1And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5) 
 

Faith in Jesus has replaced the law. Galatians 3:22-26

“But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

By His grace, Jesus made a simplification of the law– Matt. 22: 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? The grace of God is Jesus Christ.

Love God

How do we know that we Love God?

  1. Obey His commandments

John 14:15-21: 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

  • Love your brother/sister

The love we have for God, if genuine and spiritual, should be manifested in our show of love and compassion for others around us. God created man in His own image, every human being as His representative. Therefore, if you sincerely love God, you should love His representative. Apostle John argues convincingly, that we do not truly love God if we don’t love our fellow man and woman: “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?”. In essence, you can only prove that you love God if you show genuine love to your fellow man and woman.

Indeed, God considers it a heinous sin not to love your brother, and for that matter your sister. Hatred for your brother or sister is as terrible a sin as an act of murder. Therefore, if you hate your fellow man or woman, you cannot enjoy the peace of God. Apostle John sums it up neatly:

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ……..But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” [I John 3:14-15,17].

Jesus makes an important distinction between His followers and those outside the fold: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It is a requirement that all those “who are of the household of faith” must honor all men and women and love them (See Gal. 6:10; I Pet. 2:17; Heb. 13:1; I Pet. 4:8; Tit. 3:15; II John 1). In essence, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, but you are still living in envy, jealousy and hatred for somebody (anybody at all), then you need to repent quickly and ask for the love of God to fill your heart; otherwise, you are toying with hell fire. 

Love yourself

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is the second part of the ‘great commandment’ of God (See Matt. 22:39). But this statement assumes that you love yourself. Ask yourself this question: ‘Do I really love myself’? If you don’t love yourself, you cannot really love another person; you cannot give what you don’t have. If you do love yourself why are you living in self-condemnation? You were a sinner before you met Jesus, and you have asked for forgiveness and Jesus has forgiven you; but you are yet to forgive yourself.  Yet, the Bible tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).

If you love yourself, why are you always angry with yourself – you don’t like how you look in the mirror; you think you are rather short in stature; or that your nose is not good enough; or you are not beautiful enough or as beautiful as….; you probably think you are unlucky to be born to your race; you believe you are simply unlucky or not as fortunate as others; you look at yourself and feel you should have been someone else. If you have any such feelings it means simply that you don’t love yourself. When self-hate is drawn to its negative extension, the individual begins to contemplate self-destruction. It is a serious sin; it is a negative confession and a direct attack on the goodness of God.

If you hate yourself for whatever reason(s), how can you fulfill the commandment of God that says, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’? Unless you start loving yourself, and praising God for how you have been made (a final product from God’s own factory, certified as ’good’) you may never have the peace of God. It is by loving yourself that you can love God and extend the love to your neighbor.

Love your  neighbor?

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5:14, NKJV).

“And who is my neighbor?” That was the question a certain lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked Jesus (Luke 10:29). Jesus knew his thoughts; the man belonged to a special group in Israel, a class apart from others, bound by religion and by the force of tradition to remain within their group. So, he asked Jesus, wanting to show that the boundary of friendship and love should not extend beyond the confines of neighborhood. But Jesus was interested in your neighborliness, rather than mere neighborhood. Anybody, who is in need (regardless of your relationship to him or her) and whom you can help, is your neighbor. That was why Jesus came to save, to heal and to deliver all Jews and Gentiles alike – whoever will follow Him.

Who is my neighbor?

Jesus used the ‘Parable of the Good Samaritan’ to teach His disciples the true meaning of love: our neighbor whom we should love, how to show our love, and the extent to which our position or religiosity can constitute a barrier to the extension of our love to others around us (Luke 10:30-37). The victim in the story was “a certain man”, a man that needed help in time of trouble. He was just somebody in need. According to this story, the victim was a Gentile and the thieves attacked him leaving him “half dead”.

The first person that could have helped this man was a priest, but he passed by ostensibly to avoid being defiled by the dead body; but the man was not dead. The priest had (a bad) excuse for not showing compassion even though he was working for the God of love. A priest of God without true compassion for people around him/her in his/her heart is a self-serving hypocrite.

Then came a Levite, also a church worker according to the law of God in the Jewish tradition. Being a Levite, he had nothing to do with Gentiles and so, dead or alive, he simply ignored the wounded man and left him in his predicament. Such is the evil power of tradition even in the life of some believers; when it comes to their customs and traditional doctrines and beliefs, the line is drawn and the fact of their ‘New Birth’ is hardly relevant.

Simply because of tradition or arrogance of office, some people tend to put others in certain pre-determined social categories (circle of friends, club members, people of the same ethnic background, religious group, political camp, etc). Such definitions tend to create in people a mind set which predisposes them to limiting the extent to which they are prepared to stretch their hands of fellowship and compassion to those who ‘don’t belong’. Obviously, as the priest and Levite were concerned in this parable, the victim of armed attack did not ‘belong’; he was neither Jewish nor a member of the priesthood family.

But the Samaritan came on the same scene and seeing the wounded man, “he had compassion” and immediately offered to help. The Bible says: “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). As the story goes, the Samaritan went to the man in agony and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; thereafter he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The Samaritan stayed with the man overnight and on the next day, when he departed, unsure if the man would be healed completely by the help provided so far, he left some money with the inn keepers and promised saying, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you” (Luke 10:35).

That Samaritan was really a ‘good’ one. For him, help was needed even without solicitation, and help he provided regardless of his own cultural background, his personal/professional commitments, or any other constraints. To him, neighborliness was superior to neighborhood. Anybody in need, whom you have the power to help, is your neighbor: show compassion to him/her – name unknown, nationality not relevant, religion not an issue, reward not needed. That is how to love your neighbor. The love of God in our hearts compels us help and love, according to our ability, the poor and all those in need, even our enemies.

Rewards of loving your neighbour

Why help the poor or those in need? Anybody in need, whom you can help is your neighbour

  • It is God’s command (Deut. 15: 7 – 11)  —–thou shall not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. 0 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall [f]open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’
  • It is a proof that God’s love is in a child of God (1 John 3:17). 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
  • It is God’s prescription for an effective prayer and abundant presence of God in one’s life (Isaiah 58: 7 – 12; Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are [d]cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
  • By giving to the poor, abundant reward from God is His promise (Proverb 19:17; 28: 27).
  • It is a sin not help the poor (Proverbs 21:13). Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard.
  • (Proverbs 14:21). He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Love your enemies

  • If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you. (Pro. 25:21-22)
  • Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matt.5:43-45)

Prayer Points

  1. Lord, give me a loving heart – to love you, by obeying your commandments
  • Lord, give me an understanding spirit, to know that my neighbor has been created in your image and to extend my love to my neighbor
  • Lord, you have commanded that I should love my enemies; give me your spirit to do that which is difficult for the flesh
  • Lord, I pray for all my neighbours that none shall die outside of the purpose of Jesus Christ for their lives

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