Community of Believers – Love Your Neighbor

In 1967 the Beatles debuted their new song “All You Need is Love” to an international television audience – the first live satellite transmission of a television show.  The lyrics of the song don’t make much sense, but did fit in with the free love theme of the Vietnam era.  The word “love” is an important part of our vocabulary and culture. Yet, when we try to define “love” we find ourselves falling back on platitudes.  Even the Christian community will talk about “agape love” that puts others first or does the best for others.  Yet, when I look at the church I don’t find us practicing the “love” required by Jesus.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandments He replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV)  When someone tried to weasel out of this command by asking for a definition of “neighbor”, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).  The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews, yet in this story a Samaritan rendered aid to an unknown Jew and paid for his treatment and recovery without any expectation for reward, repayment, or fame.  Jesus instructed us to be this kind of neighbor.
 
The love Jesus demanded from us has nothing to do with knowing a person, but responding to the need of the person.  Notice what the Apostle John said in 2 John 1:5-6 (NIV), “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

John says that love for one another is to walk in obedience to Christ’s commands.  Without obedience to Christ we cannot even love one another.  I’m afraid this is why our churches are in such a mess.  We talk about obedience, but we don’t walk in obedience – we don’t do everything commanded by God, and therefore are incapable of true love for each other.  When we are obedient to God and His Word, the lives we lead are lives of love.

It’s extremely difficult to retrofit a church with love through obedience, but I think it can and should be done.  As church planters, we have the opportunity and responsibility to establish new churches on the greatest commandments.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

Knowing the Great Commandments does not absolve us from the responsibility to obey all the commandments.  Loving God and loving others is demonstrated in our obedience to all the commandments.

Following are more verses from the NIV on “love”.
 

John 13:34-35

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

John 15:12

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:17

This is my command: Love each other. 

Rom 13:9

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Gal 5:14

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 Th 3:12

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

1 Th 4:9

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

2 Th 1:3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

Heb 13:1

Keep on loving each other as brothers. 

James 2:8

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

1 Pet 1:22

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 

1 Pet 4:8

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 John 3:11

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 

1 John 3:23

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Blessings!
 
David Watson
From Germany

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