Love Series, Part 6: Love Your Neighbor
June 18, 2006
This sermon was presented before the Load, Kentucky, Church of Christ, on June 18, 2006. God is love. He expects us to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Jesus answered that!
Love Series, Part 6: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to the Load, KY, church of Christ on 06-18-2006
In our last lesson in this series on love, I addressed loving your enemies, in which I shared some thoughts on the story of the “Good Samaritan”. In that lesson, I pointed out that a man considered to be a religious and political enemy of the Jews became a neighbor to the man in need. Today, I wish to develop this theme further by discussing the subject of loving your neighbor as yourself.
When asked, who is my neighbor, Jesus gave the story that we refer to as the Good Samaritan story, to illustrate that anyone who needs us, or helps us, is our neighbor.
Remember the two great laws that Jesus mentioned?
Mark 12:29: “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31: And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
32: And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
I want to read some of those laws to the Israelites that came to be called the Ten Commandments.
Leviticus 19:9: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
10: And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
11: Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
12: And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
13: Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
14: Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
15: Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
16: Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
17: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
Exodus 20:12: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13: Thou shalt not kill.
14: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15: Thou shalt not steal.
16: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.”
What do all of these have in common? They have to do with loving your neighbor as yourself. You might say that the first one that I read from Exodus has to do with your father and mother, not your neighbor. But Jesus indicated that your neighbor is that person whom you help, or who needs your help. Therefore, to care for one’s mother and father in their old age, or during sickness or injury, is to be a neighbor to them.
If you kill someone, you are not loving your neighbor as yourself. Taking someone’s life is an act of hatred, vengeance, or disregard for their person and their family. If you commit adultery, you are harming the marriage of your neighbor. You are violating that intimate relationship, and casting a grievous stumbling block in your neighbor’s way. Both husband and wife are harmed in commission of adultery. Stealing harms your neighbor, for it deprives him of something that belongs to him. It may deny him something that he has worked long and hard for, and may create a hardship for him. Lying against your neighbor can cause others distrust, resent, or hate him. In certain circumstances, it can ruin his marriage, career, and relationship with friends and family, or even lead to persecution, imprisonment, or death. If you covet that which belongs to your neighbor, it can make your life miserable and destroy your relationship with him. If carried to extremes, such covetousness can lead to some of the other sins we have covered: lying, stealing, adultery, and murder.
We easily see that these sins are sins against your neighbor. Jesus was correct to state that the second great law is to love your neighbor as yourself. We see this same embodiment of loving your neighbor as yourself in the love that is commanded between a man and a woman.
Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23: For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24: Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29: For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
A man is told to love his neighbor as himself, and a husband is told to love his wife as himself. In both instances, the Christian is to put the love of others on an equal footing as the regard he has for himself. Paul writes that ma man does not hate his own flesh, but nourishes it—that is, he provides that which is necessary to sustain it, and allow it to grow—and cherishes it—that is, he holds it dear, as of great importance. In other words, his own health depends upon how well he takes care of his body, his flesh.
By the same token, if a man loves his neighbor as himself, he looks after the well-being of that neighbor, just as the husband looks to the well-being of his wife. Just as a marriage fails when a man does not look to his wife’s needs, or when a wife does not look to her husband’s needs, so will communities fail when Christians do not look after the needs of their neighbors. When such needs go unmet, criminal behavior begins to rule. Neighborhoods end up being war zones for drug lords and gang members. Rape and murder increases, fear sets in, children go uneducated, and a downward spiral occurs.
When we love our neighbor as ourself, and look to his needs as they arise, there is no vacuum created in which outsiders can easily intrude, resentment builds, and crime becomes an attractive way of life. One of the reasons that Islam is growing by leaps and bounds in the world is that they meet the needs of their neighbors as the needs arise. At the same time, much of the so-called Christian world has become a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself, what’s-mine-is-mine culture. If someone is sick, hungry, improperly clothed, or inadequately sheltered, we say, “Let the government take care of the problem!”
When the unborn children are scalded with salt water in the womb, or otherwise poisoned, or are suctioned limb-from-limb, or are partially born, and then their spinal cords are gouged with scissors, and their brains suctioned out, we blindly look away.
On the things that should vex us because of their sinfulness, we often are tolerant and resigned that we can have no positive influence. On the opposite hand, when we have no reason to judge or condemn, we often do both. I am reminded of the woman caught in adultery, whose life the men of the village sought to take.
John 8:3: “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4: They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5: Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6: This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7: So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8: And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9: And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10: When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11: She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
How many of us, living in that time, would have arrogantly been hefting stones in our hands, stating, “But the law of God is plain and strict. We have no choice but to kill her!”
James 5:19: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20: Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
God is a loving God, as well as a vengeful God. His love is toward all of us, and He hopes and desires that we will all render obedience to Him. He is merciful toward us, full of love and grace. When we sin, He wishes our repentance and obedience, not our punishment. Have we learned from our heavenly Father? Do we share His love for our fellow man—for our neighbors?
1 John 4:17: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19: We love him, because he first loved us.
20: If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21: And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
If God is love, and we are in God, then we are also love. If He was willing to show His love toward us while we were yet sinners, then must we love our fellow man—even the sinners! Nay, especially the sinners! Those who are lost in sin need our love most of all!
If we will give to our enemies, as we studied in our last lesson, when they desire of us, how much more help will we give to our neighbors who are in need? Who are our neighbors, but those whom we can help, who need our help!
If God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for the sin of the world, how much are we willing to give to help those who are in sin?
Matthew 22:36: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38: This is the first and great commandment.
39: And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40: On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
To love God completely, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, are the two greatest commandments. From them, all other laws and commandments are suspended. If you want to understand how important another commandment really is, and what it really means, seek how it relates to one of these two.