Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Law of Love: Love Your Neighbor

Mill stone
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:31).

Second only to the responsibility to love God with all you are is the command to love your neighbor. However, again, “love” is a weasel word in our society. So what does it mean to love someone? Jesus helped us out with some statements that will make it clearer.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).

We’ve labeled this the Golden Rule. It’s simple: Knowing nothing about that person, if you were the one in that situation, what would you want people to do for you? Many societies have a version of this, but it’s typically the negative, eg, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another.” The negative is easy: If you don’t want to be set on fire, don’t set people on fire.

The positive requires you to do for burning people what you would want someone to do for you — namely, extinguish the flames. The positive is less easy. When you see someone who is hurting, someone who is hungry, someone who is cold, you are to give what you would like to receive were you in their place.

The apostles take this command seriously.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1John 3:17).

Jesus emphasized this more when he quoted Hosea: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matt 9:13). Mercy is the religious practice that God most desires.

So is that love — giving to people? No, that’s not all that is required. Paul summed it up for us nicely:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1Cor 13:4-7).

We like to hear that love is kind, and that means it’s generous. We like that love doesn’t do a lot of things — it doesn’t envy or boast or keep a record of wrongs. Our society needs to hear some things it doesn’t like: Love does not delight in evil. Love protects. Love cares about right and wrong. That means it cares about sin and the gospel because Jesus cares about them and said, “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt 18:6).

Love your neighbor as yourself. And in the process, love God. Love them with a godly love, a love that wants God's best for them.

Image via Pixabay

Part of Christianity 102

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