Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
The world would keep us apart, in competition with each other or in denying another the same rights as we have. But God’s reconciling love would bring us together. The world would have us judge others by race or economic or educational achievements or immigrant status(and other surface criterion). But when we look to Jesus and how he treated those who weren’t Jewish we see a whole different criterion, one of needs that He can fill by healing them or asking them to sin no more or by raising a servant or beloved relative from the dead.
With our backs to the world, we go to His Sermon on the Mount and we read this: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The word translated perfect from the Greek is teleios which means perfect in the sense of maturity or completeness. We could read this as suggesting that we treat everyone the same as God does in not withholding his love, his rain or sunshine from anyone—with all of ourselves, completely.
The world—we live in the world, but are not of the world—does not know God’s ways unless we show them to all that we meet. How else is Jesus’s point about showering everyone like God does get to the world and challenge its ways? If we don’t follow Jesus and all that He taught us, we’re still caught in the world’s ways, and you know what He said about serving two masters—it just doesn’t work.
The apostle Paul says it this way: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’…So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Isn’t it interesting that Paul is saying that by loving our neighbors as ourselves, we are actually loving God and serving God?
So how do we bring ourselves into conformity with all these teachings? We have to give up our judging, critical looks at everyone else and just look at them with love. As Paul points out after the passage above in Galatians, there is the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Just take a few of these qualities—kindness, goodness and gentleness—and apply them to everyone we meet regardless of any differences between us. And what a difference that would make in the world if we Christians would practice what we preach!
It is not easy to be a follower or a disciple of Jesus. What He taught is so contrary to all that the world has taught us. But, with His help and healing and our commitment to change our ways, we can and will make a huge difference in this world. Just think of it! Christians would be known for their love, their kindness, their goodness, their gentleness and so much more!
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I treat my enemies, my neighbors? Am I judging them, condemning them or loving them? Am I interested in who they are and what their lives have been like? Am I present to everyone I meet or just going through the motions to look as if I am present? What would I have to do or give up to love someone I’d normally avoid? If, as Paul says, “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command,” how am I loving my neighbor as myself?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who love our selves and our neighbors. May we look beyond the surface stuff to see the depths of the person, to see the image of God of Jesus in them. May we be love in this world.
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 Mattthew 5:44-48
 Goodrich & Kohlenverger III, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd Edition, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p. 1596, Strong’s #5455
 1 John 2:15-17, Romans 12:2
 Matthew 6:24
 Galatians 5:14-18
 Galatians 5:22-23