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Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
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The 2nd Greatest Commandment
Matthew 22:34-40 | “To love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
This is a law that would have been well known to the scholars and scribes at the time and is found in Leviticus 19:18. In looking at this command, I want to refer to Luke 10 where Jesus tells the very well known parable of the good Samaritan. The lead up to the parable Luke 10:25-29 sounds very familiar to Matthew 22. We have an expert of the law who is trying to trick Jesus into making a mistake, the expert in the law actually proclaims the profound truth that Jesus told in Matthew 22. And then Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a Samaritan man helping a Jew who was attacked as he walked along the road to Jericho. And even though the Samaritan was considered by many Jews to be a lesser race, this Samaritan helped the Jewish man and went above and beyond what could have been expected of a fellow Jew. Jesus was using an extreme example of someone that the Jews would not have even remotely considered as their neighbor. At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the expert of the law; “Which one of the travelers was a neighbor to the injured man?” The legal expert had to sheepishly admit that the Samaritan was the true neighbor, and then Jesus dismisses him by saying, “Go and do likewise”. Jesus very simply, but very profoundly silenced the devious critic.
Jesus knew that what he was saying was impossible to do. Jesus knew that the man asking the question was far from the Kingdom of God, he was an expert in the law of God, but had no personal relationship with God. The response from the scholar should have been one of resignation; he should have said “how can I do this? I am not able, I need help, please help me.” But the expert of the law rather tries to justify himself, to find an out, to find a lower standard that he can handle, a palatable law that would work for him.
Does this sound familiar? Sadly too many teachers of the Word are trying to make the commands and requirements of the Bible easier to accept. The clear instructions of the Bible are simply not politically correct and as a result scholars try to find a way to get around it. “Well, maybe the translation is not very good? Maybe we have the context wrong.” No, my friends, the truth is that if you truly follow the word of God and do as it says, you will be in the minority and will probably be ridiculed for it.
So, the question that was posed to Jesus is still posed to us today, who is our neighbor? And I would like to add another question; why does it matter?
I think we can all agree that our neighbor is not only the person or persons who live in the adjacent house or apartment. Jesus was drawing attention to the fact that our neighbor is anyone we come into contact with. Whether or not they look like us, dress like us, have the same socio economic standing, or even believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We are not allowed to discriminate in any way. If God brings a person into your path, that person is your neighbor.
Jesus came to earth with the purpose to offer himself as a sacrifice to provide the way of salvation to all who would call on his name, not just a few people who we like to hang out with. Not just those that we feel comfortable with.
We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who do not know Jesus as their personal savior. By our actions and love for the hurting, we will be able to introduce them to Jesus. We need to be careful here, it is easy to care and help the needy and hurting, but if we are not introducing them to Jesus, we are not helping them at all. They may have a temporary respite from their pain and discomfort, but their eternal destiny remains unchanged.
And then there is the aspect of loving fellow believers, this is something that Grace Point is known for and commended for. We are a loving Church. But our society is becoming more and more insular. There is an epidemic of loneliness, and unfortunately it is no different in the church. Jesus said it once again in John 13:34 & 35. Jesus was speaking here to his disciples, just before his crucifixion. Jesus knew how important it would be for them to love and care for each other in the days ahead. In this day and age, the world is longing for genuine love and care; they need to see in us the kind of love that Jesus was talking about here. I praise God for Grace Point, God’s grace is truly here and by his grace we have an unusual love and care for each other. I pray that this will never be diminished but rather it will grow and continue to be a witness and testimony to those in our community.