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Loving Your Neighbor

Posted: May 16, 2018 in Blog
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Of faith, hope, and love—love is the greatest of these. Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and loving the lost has been the focus; we’ve yet to come to loving Jesus Christ, be patient we’ll get there. 

Love has no shortage of biblical precept, nor is there a shortage of need for discussion. 

Loving the lost, our fellow man, our neighbor is our current focus. In Matthew 22:36–40 we read about the greatest of the commands, ““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The command is clear. Its goal is equally as clear. Yet Christians need much more than the command to love. How so? By answering why its necessary, and how the ability to authentically love is even possible is highly important to this discussion. Otherwise commands are the platform of loveless death. Let’s face it, love, true love, isn’t ooie-gooey-warm-and-fuzzy, I don’t care what the Princess Bride teaches. 

Horace Bushnell has beautifully expressed love in light of the perfection of the atonement. In the end, unless we grasp the perfection of the atonement, we will never really understand the power and depth of love as commanded in Christ. 

John 15:13,Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Love is a principle essentially vicarious in its own nature, identifying the subject with others, so as to suffer their adversities and pains, and taking on itself the burden of their evils. There is a Gethsemane hid in all love. Holding such a view of vicarious sacrifice, we must find it belonging to the essential nature of all holy virtue. We are also required, of course, to go forward and show how it pertains to all other good beings, as truly as to Christ himself in the flesh—how the eternal Father before Christ, and the Holy Spirit coming after, and the good angels both before and after, all alike have borne the burdens, struggled in the pains of their vicarious felling for men; and then, at last, how Christianity come to its issue, in begetting in us the same vicarious love that reigns in all the glorified and good minds of the heavenly kingdom; gathering us in after Christ our Master, as they have learned to bear his cross, and be with him in his passion.” Horace Bushnell

Loving the souls of others is costly. It is an endeavor of loving the unloveable, the unloved, and the loveless. Jesus’ purpose in His seeking of the lost is most assuredly the glory of God displayed in His fidelity to the Father, and His love for the souls of man. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke19:10

Phenomenal love, different from anything mankind knows, is the love of The Creator for His creation. What makes the love of God for His creation so special is that He loves the unloveable and loveless. Grace is extended to mankind when mankind not only rebelled, but lovelessly pursued their own glory apart from the Father. Even in mankind’s rebellion, God mercifully-graciously-longsufferingly pursues those whom He purposes to make His own. 

In His life lived upon the earth Jesus displayed a great love for the souls of man. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus gave His life, for the unloveable according to the world’s standards. Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

This manner of love can only be expressed in the parables in Luke 15, verses 8–10 give a good indication of the diligence the Savior gives to those who are His, “…what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Christ’s love leads others to love like Christ. Where is your heart for the souls of mankind? Do you love the unloveable, unloved, and loveless in Christ Jesus?

Love to one another, and for one another is important. It’s intuitive, right? If I were to write a manual on this subject it might be titled ‘Love for Dummies’.  But that title has already been taken. Under this title is a highly secularized picture of love. The title itself implies that this is an easy matter, and dummies need it spelled out for them through the lowest common denominator.

Love one another, easy enough, right? And if others don’t get it, just say it louder!

Let it suffice to say, love really isn’t that easy. It is a matter that takes a lifetime to figure out, and the power of Jesus to function within. For the Christian the call to love each other is so common, if not altogether cliche, that it really isn’t heard.

In the Gospel of Matthew we see that this call extends beyond affection for those whom we are in fellowship with, or even those whom we find highly important. In Matthew 18:10–14, an exhortation on the love for souls is given, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”  

Here we read a command to value those considered unimportant. Functionally it is call to love. It might be skewed by some as children are almost deified in our society, and agricultural precepts are lost on most. Here is a command to pursue those who are lesser or obstinately off on their own and not worth the time.

In other cultures, and in particularly the historic context of the passage, children are regarded as less than. And stray sheep are regarded as an inconvenient matter that is handled according to economic measures. Jesus paints a picture with children and the singular sheep, as the lesser, and how they are not to be despised, but regarded as highly important. 

This example points to something greater than simply treating children well, or keeping the herd gathered. Rather it presses the hearer to consider the souls of others, even those of lesser value, as greatly important. Even within religious people there is a utilitarian tendency to cast aside those who are down trodden and unimportant, especially those who are burdensome. 

Don’t get me wrong, the church does many great things, we give many great things in an effort to love those in need, but the lack of love in the world would demand that Christians consider how we might fill that void. It has often been stated that Christians shoot the weak or wounded, rather than love those who are inconvenient. Kids are inconvenient, and so is a lost sheep, as are many people God places directly in our paths. Do we really regard the weak and wounded as too much of a burden? Do we really have a want of love for the souls of mankind?

I don’t think the church is as bad, or as good as some would frame it. Many regard others to be less than and insignificant. This is a heart matter that Christians must deal with. Remember Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost, to love the souls of men, and seek to keep them from perishing through the message of the cross. By God’s grace we are invited to do the same.

How do you love the souls of men? Do you despise the little ones? Do you seek after the one, rejoice over the one? Take the time this week to think about your want of love for the souls of others.