Loving Your Neighbor

Southaven, Ms

By: Mike Upchurch

We have written concerning this subject before, but every good sermon bears repeating. Some of you might replay a favorite song now and then because you like hearing it, so what would be wrong with replaying a sermon that has merit?  That said, let’s begin.

Many of Jesus’ teachings brought new insight and understanding to the commands of God previously handed down by Moses and the prophets of old. But in one particular statement recorded in Matthew, Jesus gave us a profound revelation. He said that by keeping just TWO commandments, we would fulfill the keeping of ALL the commandments previously given by Moses in handing down the Levitical Law…..

“And He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.Matthew 22:37-40

That is good news!  If we keep those commands, we are pleasing the Lord by keeping His most important commands!  But then, as we reflect on them, harsh reality sets in as we realize that keeping the latter command of that verse may be our most difficult task!

We are commanded to love people who aren’t very lovable at times!

Haven’t we all searched the Scriptures trying to justify just what Jesus meant when He said ‘neighbor’?  We look for loopholes in the original Greek, and we search out other verses and other writings, hoping to discover we only have to love those that love us.  But the truth is, He meant all our neighbors, whether they are physically located next to us, or whether they are friends, or workmates, or fellow citizens.

In an earlier chapter in Matthew, He even widened the definition of who the receivers of our love should be…..

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”Matthew 5:43,44

And then He shined the light of truth even further…..

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”‭‭Matthew 5:46-48‭‭

Those verses pretty much cancel out our hope of being selective with our love, and makes it even harder to keep the command to love our neighbor!

Well then, what should that love look like?  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul defined the attributes and earmarks that true Biblical love should display in the 13th chapter, known commonly as the love chapter.

In displaying these characteristics in the way we love, we will truly keep the command to “love one another as we love ourselves” in the way the Lord desires…..

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;….”‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬

It’s sometimes easy to love our spouses or significant others in the ways described in Paul’s letter, but what if we apply those examples to the way we love ALL the people around us?

Look at that statement found in verse 5, “does not take into account a wrong suffered”.

Another way of stating that is “does not keep score of who wrongs us”!

That is a hard statement to accept!  We like to keep score!  We like to be smug in our thinking that “they’ll get theirs!”  We sit on our self righteous hills, as Jonah did waiting for the destruction of Nineveh, watching and waiting for our own justice to come swiftly!  We know that karma is sweet and we can’t WAIT to see what happens. 

But that is not love!  Love doesn’t have revenge in mind, but rather “love endures all things”. Loving our neighbor, whoever that person may be, is the one true characteristic that defines us as Christians!

Having love for others is how the world will know we are true followers of Christ!

The Disciple John gave us further instruction about love, and what it means when we DON’T love others…..

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”1 John 3:14,15

‭‭And John stated this in chapter 4, verses 7 and 8..

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

‭‭So if we do not love, we do not know God!  That is perhaps the strongest indicator of who knows God and who doesn’t, and who is pleasing the Lord and who isn’t; the presence or the lack of love for others.

There is much more we could speak of, but in summary, we must strive to love ALL people. And love them in the ways Paul spelled out in the love chapter of first Corinthians  If we do, we are truly His children and we know we are pleasing Him! 

And that’s the way I see it!

Pastor Mike