In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus is cornered by a “teacher of the law” and asked what is the most important law. This teacher of the Law may have expected Jesus’ first response, but what he might not have anticipated is what followed. The answer to this question is key to addressing the racism that still exists in humanity.
Tethered to loving God completely was the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Take note; we need to have a level of love for ourselves. We won’t be able to love others if we a poor self-image. This command informs us not to love ourselves more than others nor to love others more than ourselves but to love others as ourselves.
If our love for others is below par, then that may indicate that we need to address our self-esteem and determine what standards we are using that are marginalizing our self-image.
Jesus’ use of the term neighbor carried significant meaning to his original audience. We may think of our neighbor as someone who lives next to us or on our street or in our complex.
In Jewish thought, your neighbor was the person nearest you at any moment. Pelas is the Greek word for “neighbor,” and it means, near, near to, close by. You are to love the person closest to you at the moment.
Love is a big deal to God.
Of all the adjectives God could have used to describe Himself to us, He chose love.
“8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
God did not just say that He loves but that He IS love.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
It’s not our praying or our preaching or even our giving that identifies us as His disciples but by our unconditional, unrelenting, authentic, never-ending love for one another.
1 Corinthians 13 has become an iconic description of love that often appears in weddings as it describes the nature of true love.
Love is patient and kind; it is not envious, boastful, irritable, resentful, it doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails!
Imagine how different our world would be if we loved like this?
- We could eradicate hatred.
- We would disarm hostility and activate peace between all and with all.
- Through Jesus Christ, this is possible.
As men and women of faith, this is not optional.
“20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20
Our professed love for God is evidenced by our love for others. Without love for your neighbor, your love for God is suspect.
Godly love is the antidote to the hatred in our world. There is a clear need for police reform, but politicians can’t bring about this sort of reconciliation that can only come through Jesus Christ.
Today, we are witnessing what love looks like when it is absent of loving God first. The world’s expression of love is biased, selective, self-seeking, selfish, vengeful, and temperamental.
Genuine love that promotes harmony and unity begins with Jesus Christ. This type of love has the power to change us and to change the world. Yet, when we remove God from that equation, we deny God’s love of that power in our life.
Love starts with you and me, those of us who have Jesus in our life. Love gives because it’s needed and is a declaration of your faith in Jesus.
Your neighbor is the person near you in need. What the world needs is the power of God’s love working in and through YOU!
(If you missed part 1 of this message you can check it out here.)