Watching the news this week with more riots and protests, blame shifting and finger pointing, and journalists celebrating the downfall of a leader, I got to pondering about something that we say in our services almost every week “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as your self” (Mark 12:30-31). Loving your neighbour as yourself is found eight times in the Bible: not once, not twice, but eight times! This is so important to God that He not only repeats Himself, He makes it a command. And not just one in a list of many commands. Jesus coupled the command to love your neighbour as yourself with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
It sounds simple enough, but what is simple often isn’t easy, and what is easy often doesn’t last.
There’s no school to learn how to love your neighbour, and Jesus didn’t make it clear who our neighbour is, he simply told a story about someone that we probably would have thought that it wasn’t; this simply means that we can make lists of those we don’t need to love. We are surrounded by our neighbours; they are ahead of us, behind us, beside us, teaching our kids at school, cleaning the floors in the kitchen, playing in the park, on TV, and in magazines. They are ordinary people, extraordinary people, heroes and villains. God’s plan is pretty simple, we love God above all else then everybody else equally and always!
in our world we are taught to be put self first, to seek self above others, to only truly love and serve family and friends (and then only when it is convenient). We are taught to store possessions, hold grudges, not talk to strangers and to avoid eye contact with those who make us uncomfortable. To love only those worthy of being loved. Yet God consistently sends us a different message. Loving God and loving our neighbours are truly one inseparable totally counter cultural mandate; it’s not easy but it is simple -it’s not so much about who our neighbour is, as it is about our own willingness to be a neighbour ready to be love to that person in that moment.
Probably the first thing to remember is that love is a doing word! It is an action. And when it is done the way we are told to “As Christ loved us (John 13:34) then the world becomes beautiful as things are done (in a small way) “on earth as in heaven”. Far from fake smiles and platitudes, this kind of love is generous, ethical, sacrificial and intentional, and stems from the deep knowledge that God himself is the true source of this kind of love (1 John 4:10). Once we accept God’s love in our own lives, only then is it possible to extend the kind of love to “our neighbours” as Christ intended; full of grace, kindness compassion, humility, patience, honesty and protection (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). This kind of love is about serving others, encouraging others, making allowances for the humanity of others, investing time in others, sharing joys and sorrows, making no judgements and forgiving all wrongs.
Love isn’t something that we fall into, its not a feeling, it is an intentional action. As we practice this action it becomes habit, then we discover joy. When joy becomes a habit, then love is a reflex - in short love is something that we become on purpose.
Let all start loving our neighbours as ourselves.
Grace & Peace
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!