getting Right with God Pt. 5: The Great Commandment #2 - Love your neighbor as yourself
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” -Emily Bronte
The same – men and women are the image of God. We are made from the same stuff. And whether you believe we have a literal soul or not, it matters not. Our physical, earthly bodies are made from one source. That is God, our Almighty Creator. He made man out of dust, and he made woman from man.
God makes it abundantly clear through all the authors of the Bible that He is to be loved and feared and revered above and beyond everyone and everything else. When tested by a scholar as to what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:29, and Luke 10:27). That must have been pretty important if all three of these authors chose to include it in their Gospel. Jesus’ main teaching – the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14) is summed up in that one commandment.
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Leviticus 19:18
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and all over the Earth’” (Genesis 1:26).
We are made in the image of God. We have His breath and His Spirit in us (if indeed you are in the Spirit). He made a being to be like Him to rule His physical kingdom until it is to become His spiritual kingdom. He made Adam, the first of all mankind, to be His image bearer. Then came Eve, the female version, to be his helper; so that together they would expand God’s earthly kingdom. But of course, that took a bad turn.
“I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!”
We need not go into great detail again (at least right now” about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and set mankind on the crash course it is on right now. But one thing that did happen from all of this was the contention that was unleased in the world. After the fall, God cursed Eve, telling her women would have painful childbirth and that her desire would be for her husband and that he would rule over her (Genesis 3:16). If one must rule, one must be subservient. How well have women taken to that lately? Contention.
There would be contention between man, his work, and the Earth, now. The ground would become a pain to work and work in general would be hard. Man (and woman) must now be subservient to their earthly boss, and the policies and procedures they must follow to remain employed. And God help those who work for bad bosses and companies (we all have stories, I am sure). Contention.
What causes quarrels among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and can not obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. -Jacob 4:1-2
We can not open our eyes and not see that mankind (sorry PM Trudeau, not “peoplekind”) is crumbling around us. Domestic terrorism is all over the place. Political factions are constantly at odds with each other, not working for the good of the country, but only to win the stupid little arguments they are caught up in. Countries all over the world are bombing each other or threatening to wipe each other out with the regularity of the sunrise and set.
Jesus Christ said, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit murder,’ and, ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court, and whoever says, ‘you good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court, and whoever says, ‘you fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell (Gehenna) (Matthew 5: 21-23).
Even thinking something bad or saying something bad about another causes you to be as guilty in the eyes of God, the same as if you actually took their life. That is how important the aspect of love is.
But if you enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty give him a drink. For by doing so you will heap burning coals on their head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -Romans 12:20-21
…not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead; for you were called for that very purpose, that you might receive a blessing. -1 Peter 3:9
We are not going to have everyone like us. They certainly will not love us. I have lost count of the times I have been threatened and cursed and insulted and had all kinds of anger directed at me. But not to boast… Much of this has come from others who either have mental health issues, addiction problems, or both. Should I take this personally? Should I hate the meth addict who calls me a “fake pig” or “rent-a-cop,” or some other kind of insult? What good does it do me? What would it profit me to insult them back or physically lash out at them? It would do no good whatsoever.
Even man y who have assaulted me in the past I will no longer hold ill will against. Most o the time they had no idea what they were doing or saying. And I would only feel bad about it later. But mostly – I want to glorify God. Not out of obligation or sense of duty, although those are factors. It is my love for God. My love for God and Jesus Christ. Their love is transforming, to make me want to be more like them in mind and spirit. I want to love others because they love me. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“If you love only 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 Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5:46-48
I have put a lot of thought into this teaching. What does it mean to be perfect here? Paul summed it up nicely in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves has fulfilled the law,” and, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8, 10). Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). And Jacob, in his letter wrote, “If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” you are doing well” (Jacob 2:8).
To love without regard to the person is to fulfill the law. That is perfection. We are destined to imperfection in our thoughts, our actions, and our words (though we always strive for perfection) but if we love others, we will want to be and do better. I often have to remind myself of this.
“A new commandment I give you: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you shall love one another.” -John 13:34
Jesus repeated this commandment to His disciples three times in John 13:35, 15:12, and 15:17. The disciples were a special bunch. Jesus had higher hopes for them and pushed them harder to be like Him. But now we who claim to follow Jesus and be disciples of His can not overlook anything He taught. And love was the message. If we desire to see the kingdom of God, we must love.
God gave all the opportunity to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. Even those with whom Jesus contested with. In John chapter 4, Jesus displayed the love of God to the woman at the well. In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus healed the servant of a Roman Centurion. And we get the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.
We are not like everyone else. We are not all from the same background, race, creed, or culture. But we are all the same in that we are God’s creation, and followers of Jesus Christ.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, can not love God, whom he has not seen. And this is the commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. -1 John 4:20-21
If we truly love God, we must love others. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” His commandments all came from God. If we want to see the kingdom of God, if we want to consider ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, we must love, as Jesus did. Though sometimes He had to dish out some tough love, He did it because He, like God, does not want to see anyone perish. God loved the world enough to put His Son to death for it.
Love is a sacrifice. It goes against our nature as humans. But if we are to join Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God, we must put of that human self and put on Jesus Christ and love all our neighbors.
We are all God’s children. Let us love each other as the brothers and sisters we are, and in the process, God willing, bring more of our brothers and sisters into the Kingdom to join us when the day arrives.
***Dear LORD, I thank you for the love you have given us – that you sacrificed your Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins, to be reconciled to you.
You brought us near to you and you made all who believe in you your children. Help us, LORD, love each other in the same way.
There is so much hate and contention in this world and it is getting worse. Please, PORD, help us be more loving and forgiving, and bolder and more confident in displaying it. We do this all for your glory. In Jesus Christ’s name, amen. ***