Love Thy Neighbor

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Love Thy Neighbor - What's the Origin of this Phrase?
"Love thy neighbor" is a term that's become almost clichéd over the years. But where did it originate, and what does it really mean? In a time when neighbors, at least in America, are people we rarely see (thanks to garage door openers and busy lives), or are thought of as nuisances with barking dogs and noisy children, how can we possibly love our neighbors?

Love thy Neighbor - Christ's Answer to Religion
Love thy neighbor was, in part, Jesus' answer when the Pharisees, the chief religious sect of that day, asked Him about the greatest commandment in the Law (See Matthew 22:36-40). These religious leaders had made almost an art form of classifying all the various laws and giving them relative degrees of importance, so in asking Jesus this question, their aim was to test Him. His answer stunned them: 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.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Jesus was summing up all the law in these two statements. If we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind, loving our neighbor is the natural result. The question then is, who is our neighbor, and how do we love him or her?

Let's look at who Jesus says our neighbor is: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43).

Is our neighbor more than the guy next door? Could he or she be someone in our community or almost anyone we meet? Could our enemies also be our neighbors? Jesus says that it's so. But how can we love someone who acts hatefully toward us?

When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we grow to recognize that everyone is part of His creation. Will everyone be in heaven? No, but that's not because God doesn't desire that to be the case. His Word tells us that God desires that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). So it's clear that God sees all of us as potential children. Because He lives outside of time and has seen the end from the beginning, He also knows who will choose salvation and who will not. For us, that is where faith comes in. It is not for us to know who will choose Him and who will not, but we are called to be His witnesses. In order to fulfill that calling, we must love others enough to desire their salvation just as He does.

Here's the good news for those who find this teaching difficult: Nowhere does it say we have to like our neighbor!

As for the how part of this formula, we turn to these words from the Apostle Paul. In Romans 13:8-10, Paul says:

    Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Love Thy Neighbor - Get to Know Jesus
"Love thy neighbor" is not as hard as it looks on the surface. It simply means respecting others and regarding their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own. Keeping this commandment, however, is likely to require the supernatural assistance only God, through Christ, can provide.

How can we learn to love the guy next door with the barking dog, especially when we don't even like him? Perhaps the secret is to recognize that our neighbor, whether it's the guy next door, the checker at the local grocery store, or the Sunday school teacher at church, is someone as worthy of God's love as you or I. In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, John 1:14 is expressed as follows:

    The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
Could it be that the way we love our neighbor is through getting to know Christ, the living Word of God? It's human nature to emulate those we admire most, so in getting to know Christ, we'll discover a God worthy of our whole-hearted love, and our neighbor will see that love in us.

Another pure way to love thy neighbor is to help children in need. If you feel called to this tangible expression of love, please consider Compassion International.

Love More Now!


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