“And he (Jesus) 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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39
We have established as followers of Christ we need to imitate God by loving. The first one we are commanded to love is God. We must love him with all that we are. Then we’re to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Jesus answers this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) The conclusion from this is that the one who was an enemy actually was the one who acted like a neighbor. So what can we learn about how to love others from this?
We need to have the heart of a neighbor.
- We will meet another person’s needs. It means getting out of our comfortable chair and stretching our spiritual muscles to someone else. This may come at a cost. The action we take is loving to our neighbor. In doing this, we need to remember the action of love God had for us. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 This love came at a great cost to Jesus; his life. But, we needed his sacrifice and he knew it. He fulfilled the payment for our sins. What a loving neighbor!
- We will show mercy to others. This is hard for us. We want to see someone “pay” for their sins. We compare their weaknesses to our strengths. Our judgment of them follows. God has great mercy for us. This mercy shows up in the compassion shown for those who are perishing. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, bit that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 We see God is patient and compassionate. He treats us that way and expects that we, in turn, will treat our neighbor the same. Love shows mercy and compassion not judgment.
We need to see strangers as neighbors.
“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19 The word used here for sojourner is a word that means foreigner, temporary resident, or a newcomer. God is reminding the people of Israel that they were foreigners in Egypt so they can relate to the position. This is true of all of us. We have had times in our lives when we were the newbie or the odd one out. We didn’t feel like we belonged. How encouraging it is when someone reaches out to us with loving kindness. We need to be aware of people who fit this category. We use so many excuses to get out of being involved in the life of a stranger. These may include embarrassment, fear of rejection, or not knowing what to say. These all come from being focused on self rather than others. There are no excuses. We must love within the church by reaching out to the strangers who walk through our door. We should see strangers as neighbors who need to be loved well.
We need to love our enemies.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44
- The word used for enemy in this verse means one who is hateful, hostile or opposes us. This definitely sounds like someone we don’t want to be around much. Jesus doesn’t stop with the love of this type of person, but goes on to say that we should pray for those who persecute us. The word “persecute” means to harass, trouble or molest. We are called to love and pray for this type of person! What good will this do for us?
- Loving an enemy puts Christ on display. He is the ultimate example of what it looks like to love the unlovely. We were all the enemy of God, and yet He loved us enough to sacrifice his son for us. When we love those who are enemies to us, we are displaying Christ’s love.
- Loving an enemy can be part of the means God uses to draw someone to himself. God uses us to accomplish his purposes. He uses us to be witnesses of his great salvation. How humbling that he uses us, who were once his enemies, to draw other enemies to the cross of Christ to save them!
If we are going to be women in step with the Spirit, we are going to have to love our neighbors. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says this about love.
“Love, in the Christians sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”
Let’s keep in step with the Spirit by enacting our will to love God and others!