Saturday, January 20, 2018

Love Your Neighbor

by Tim Howard

When asked about various commandments – Jesus responded by saying: “The most important commandment is this: ‘… The Lord your God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

A person’s passion for God will be revealed through his or her compassion for people. I’ve discovered that I’m better prepared to love people when I have first given myself to loving God in the way He deserves and desires.

In the Bible, the New Testament records 50 plus scriptures that include the phrase “One Another!” Here’s a sampling: “Be devoted to one another” ”Honor one another above yourselves.”  “Accept one another” “Care for each other.” “Serve one another.”  “Don’t judge one another.”  “Be patient with one another.”   “Forgive each other.”  “Encourage one another.” “Confess your sins to one another.”  “Pray for one anther.” And the list goes on… When we combine these statements; love takes on a deeper meaning.

There’s a twist, however. Jesus said:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…”

This statement wasn’t new in the sense that it had never been spoken before but it was new because it was founded upon and motivated by something totally different. In the Old Testament this commandment was based upon the Law. It was something required and mandated. Something you had to do – ought to do and should do. As good as that may be, the new commandment Jesus gave was based upon gratitude and thankfulness not duty. People could extend mercy, grace and kindness not because it was mandated but because they were recipients of Gods mercy, grace and kindness.  In other words: We love people because we have been loved – Not merely because it is the right thing to do.

Loving people God’s way will always be challenging.

Jesus said it’s easy to love people who are lovable. Anyone can do that! But what about the people, who complain, criticize, whine, talk too much and don’t listen? What about the sarcastic, cynical, crude and intolerant? Here’s where you need an extra dose of grace. It’s not as easy as you may think!

Jesus even said:
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!

You might be saying to yourself the same thing I’ve said to myself many times – I can’t do that! That’s the truth! That’s why we need Jesus! You first need to love God and then you can be empowered to love people His way. 

What might happen in 2018 if we all take this commandment to heart? What if our love becomes more than a feeling that is rooted in the emotions? What will happen if we really accept one another - serve one another - stop judging one another and forgive each other? Let’s give it a try in 2018!

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