Do I Really Have to Love My Neighbor?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

“Love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ.” (John Newton)

God’s love extends to all people and His children are to be a channel through which His love freely flows to others. We would do well to remember the mercy and love God demonstrated to us while we were yet sinners–without strength, feeble and impious. Paul tells us:

“Just as God’s goodness and mercy flow to me all the days of my life, so goodness and mercy should follow me, should be left behind me, as a legacy to others, wherever I may go.” -Phillip Keller

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

John adds:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

We are to be bound in love to others. We are not to live simply according to our natural affections and inclinations in our spiritual life. Our likes and dislikes of others must not rule our Christian life. God has made all people who dwell on the face of this earth of one blood–all are human beings. What more than that are we?

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

We are to seek to please our Master and in pleasing Him we love those He came to die for. Others may spurn our love but Jesus will never spurn it. Our love is a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him, acceptable and pleasing. In loving our neighbors we are following in His footsteps. He is our Supreme example and as His disciples we too are to deliberately identify with God’s interest in others. John tells us:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Just as God dispenses His gifts of common mercies and goodness as in the sun and the rain on both the just and unjust as an amazing demonstration of His patience and kindness so too we are to do good indiscriminately. Sometimes the greatest deeds of the kingdom of God are acts of service and kindness done that perhaps others consider meaningless and unworthy of their talents as they carry less recognition and less glory. As God’s children we are called to live above the ordinary ways of this world. That’s how we bring Jesus to others! We are to treat each other as we ourselves would want to be treated: with kindness and mercy and love. And only Jesus can make us like Him.

Take It to Heart

“I love Him because He first loved me. His goodness and mercy and compassion to me are new every day. And my assurance is lodged in these aspects of His character. My trust is in His love for me as His own. My serenity has as its basis an implicit, unshakable reliance on His ability to do the right thing, the best thing in any given situation.  This to me is the supreme portrait of my Shepherd. Continually there flows out to me His goodness and His mercy, which even though I do not deserve them, come unremittingly from their source of supply–His own great heart of love.” (Phillip Keller)

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