My earlier post talked about the greatest commandment: loving God but now we’re going to the second greatest commandment. This one most people readily recognize that they struggle with this. I know I do.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is great for Valentines’ Day, right? For those of you in a relationship you might be able to say that you’re treating your significant other this way but not all the time. This again goes beyond the romantic love and just to our call to love EVERY person in the world. I struggle with this one a lot. I like people but generally in small doses or some people not at all. People are mean, close-minded, destructive, needy, etc.
If only Jesus had said “You shall love most of your neighbors” or “You shall tolerate your neighbors” or something along those lines. I could do that. Unfortunately, Jesus makes it pretty clear that He’s telling us to love everyone as ourselves. In case you think this was just something Jesus dreamed up when being tested by the Pharisees, I found this commandment in my enthralling reading of Leviticus. It says” You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18).
Who are ours neighbors? EVERYONE. Yes, God means the destructive neighbor, the rude and obnoxious student, our politicians, the people who’ve hurt us, the murderer, the rapist, the terrorist, etc. Everyone means everyone. There is no exception to this. We, as Christians, are called not to judge but to love. Imagine if every single person claiming to be a Christian tried to practice this. What would the world look like? What if instead of condemning someone for looking different or sinning differently, we embraced them in love. I don’t mean that we love their sin, I mean that we accept them and support them and show them what it means to love. I mean that we allow God to change their heart while we show them that it’s possible and encourage them on the journey.
Ridiculing, judging and hating someone because of the choices they make is not what we’re called to do. We can hate the sin but Jesus has called us to love. This command is hard and challenging. We are called to stand apart and to love. Really imagine the world if we put this into practice. What is loving your neighbor?
- Love is being patient when we’re in a rush and someone’s being slow.
- Love is being kind even when someone is being rude.
- Love is rejoicing in someone’s blessings and not wallowing in bitterness and envy.
- Love doesn’t boast about everything it’s doing but shares the good and the bad. It takes the filters off to show people the true picture.
- Love is not arrogant and think it’s better than someone else. Love serves.
- Love is not rude even when in the circumstances it would be understandable.
- Love is not self-centered, demanding everything go its way.
- Love isn’t irritable and snappy but soft-spoken and nice.
- Love isn’t resentful but happy to help and serve others.
- Love doesn’t cheer when the system is cheated or people sin but celebrates the truth and victory.
- Love handles every situation it encounters gracefully.
I struggle to love myself that way, let alone anyone else. Still, I can’t help but smile as I imagine a world ruled by love. A world that rejects hate and focuses on caring for each other instead of dividing over race, politics, religion, gender, etc. While I know this is not possible on earth, I know that this is what Heaven will entail. While we won’t be perfect at loving our neighbor, we are called to lean into the Holy Spirit and do our best to love EVERYONE we meet. We are called to share Jesus’ love, not condemnation and judgment.
What do you think love looks like? Where do you feel challenged? I’d love to hear from you!