Higher Thoughts
Loving Your Neighbor

Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)

We are to love God with all our being and we are to love our fellow human beings. Not just love them a little or when its convenient. We are to love other humans as we love ourselves. Let's look further at this amazing call of love that God calls us to.

Who is My Neighbor?

This type of love is "agape" love, a godly, sacrificial love for others comes from God. We love others because we know how much God loves us and we know how much God loves our neighbor! God loves us, we love God and we love our neighbor whom God loves!

In discussing this topic with Jesus, the scribe wanted to justify himself so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In a time and culture where Jews and Samaritans could not stand one another, let's look at Jesus' amazing answer...

Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. "So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:30-37)

HIGHER THOUGHTS: Who is my neighbor? Whomever God brings into my life and gives me opportunity to be kind to, to help, and simply show them God's love.

Jesus' words are both plain and powerful, "Go and do likewise."
Love your neighbor as yourself.

Where to Start?

True, genuine love is not kept to oneself, it is shared, given, shown to others, and is done so gladly and lovingly. Someone once said, "Love is a verb." There's a lot of truth in that one, small sentence.

Jesus tells us the Samaritan "had compassion." That's a necessary place to start isn't it? The priest and the Levite passed by the injured man indicating they showed no compassion because they felt no compassion. We need to have compassion because compassion brings action.

Notice that while the scribe had originally asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus reversed the scribe’s original question instead to the point of 'who can I be a neighbor to?'

Do you look for opportunities to be kind to others, even strangers? Whether it be small things or larger acts of kindness, it is important to be looking for God to give you an opportunity to let His love be seen in you and through you.

Genuine compassion combined with an awareness that looks for opportunities to help others is a powerful combination!

Jesus gives us another powerful and simple truth to help put this into perspective, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12 (NIV) The NASB puts it another way, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you."

Notice how this "Golden Rule" relates to loving others as we love ourselves! Both passages are about "others" and about "ourselves!" In this simple command is the love and wisdom of Jesus for us to carry out and obey. May we take the initiative and begin by asking God to help us love others as we love ourselves and live it out with compassion and action to treat others as we want to be treated.

HIGHER THOUGHTS: Have you considered the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself and doing so in Jesus' name? In doing so, we don't get the glory, our church or ministry doesn't get the glory, but the Lord gets the glory. Jesus tells us, "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Mark 9:41) In doing so we are truly ambassadors for Christ; it points people to Jesus; and God gets the glory!

I close with a powerful truth that Jesus gives us that it may help our perspective of what it looks like to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love God with all our being...

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'

Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:34-46)

© Higher Thoughts, 2021