Love Your Neighbor
"Love your neighbor as yourself.” Understanding how you love yourself can help you understand how to love your neighbor in the same way. Identifying the that in the following sentence is a great way to determine how to love your neighbor as yourself: It would be nice if someone did that for me. Now whatever that is would be a great way to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Would you like it if your neighbor cut your grass one day just so you didn’t have to? Would you like if they offered to help with something you were working on or having trouble with? Would you like it if your neighbor smiled more or was more friendly? Answering this question is probably the easiest way to identify how to love your neighbor as yourself.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Keep in mind that this is something God commands of us; it is not a suggestion. What would your neighborhood look like if you loved your neighbors as yourself everyday? In first century Rome, following this commandment led to the expansion of Christianity; what could it look like in your neighborhood? It would undoubtedly make a huge difference and it would lead your neighbors to Christ because his love is irresistible. This, of course, is all easy to write and talk about, but doing it can be a completely different story. What so often stops us is fear and prejudice. Fear is an easy one to do away with because we don’t live in a country where we face death for sharing our faith, yet many people around the world do and they share it as often as they can. So what are you really fearing? Rejection and an awkward moment?
"‘Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’” (Matthew 10:28)
In Acts 10, Peter had to learn a lesson in letting go of prejudice so that he could obey this command. A Roman army officer named Cornelius was visited by an angel who told him to send some men to Joppa to get Simon Peter; when they got close to where Peter was staying, Peter had a vision.
“He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’ ‘No, Lord,’ Peter declared. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.’ But the voice spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’" (Acts 10:11-15)
Immediately after this vision and declaration by the Lord, Cornelius’ men arrived. They explained everything to Peter and he accompanied them the following day. Upon arriving at Cornelius’ house, Peter found many people gathered to hear what he had to say and it was then that he realized God’s lesson for him.
"Peter told them, 'You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.'” (Acts 10:28)
Read that again. “God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.” Can we do that? Can we put aside our judgments and prejudices to not see anyone as unclean or impure? If you don’t view anyone as impure it would make it easier to love them. Instead of judging someone as unclean because of the lifestyle they have chosen, what if we could learn the same lesson Peter did? We should not think of anyone as unclean.
In Acts 11, when Peter returned to Jerusalem, word had spread that Gentiles had received the word of God. This didn’t sit well with the Jewish believers and they wanted an explanation from Peter about his actions. Peter explained everything that had happened, concluding that, “since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)
“When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.’” (Acts 11:18)
This privilege is for everyone. The early believers and founders of the early churches had to learn this, and 2,000 years later, sometimes we need the reminder too. We need to see people as God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), His beloved children (Romans 8:14). Our love for our neighbors can transform our communities and it will spread like a wildfire.
“Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
This would definitely make it easier to love people as we love ourselves. Pray about what prejudices you may have. Who are you deeming unclean that God would rather you love? Remember why Jesus came to Earth: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Not to judge, but to save. Please pray that the Lord would reveal any prejudices in your life that you need to surrender to Him so you can love your neighbor as you love yourself.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.