12 – How To Love Your Neighbor
We all know people with stories like these:
Even though Tom and John work together, they have not said a civil word to each other for over two years.
Susan and her family no longer have any contact with her parents or siblings because of a feud that began over which restaurant to go to for Christmas dinner.
Bob has worked 70 hours a week for the last ten years, so his wife Sally has taken the kids and left. She says she just doesn’t love him anymore.
We live in a world of broken relationships. Adam and Eve’s sin had two primary results: broken relationships between men and God, and broken relationships with one another. In a sense, the whole message of the Bible is the story of God restoring our relationship with Him and our relationships with other people.
When God created Adam, He made him in His image. A part of God’s “image” is the fact that He is a trinity — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in an eternal love relationship with one another. I believe this is why God says it was not good for Adam to be alone — he could not fully reflect the image of God unless he had relationships with others.
Paul brings out the same truth when he develops the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-16). Each individual in the church is to develop deep relationships with other members so that the body can grow and “build itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16). To be mature Christians who reflect God’s image, we need vital relationships with others.
When the lawyer answered Jesus’s question about the key to eternal life (Luke 10:25), he addressed both effects of the fall in what is known as the Great Commandment. “And he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27). The first part of his answer deals with our separation from God, the second, our separation from one another.
In response to the lawyer’s query about who is a neighbor, Jesus sets forth a standard of sacrificial love by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, Jesus provides a living example of the kind of love that restores relationships between men.
5 CHARACTERISTICS OF LOVE
1. Love feels compassion.
Unlike the priest and Levite, when the Samaritan saw the hurting man, “he took pity on him” (Lk. 10:33). Jesus shows compassion for the people of Jerusalem, and us as well, when he says that he “longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Lk. 13:34).
My own tendency is to only love when the need is so obvious that it is the equivalent of driving up on a ten car pile-up. But Christ calls me to open my eyes and see the needs of the people around me. Are you aware of the hurting people around you? Who at your office is suffering? What about people in your church? How about your spouse and children? Love notices and enters into the suffering of others.
How can we grow in compassion? By prayerfully considering the great love that God has shown to us in Jesus Christ. We were broken and bleeding beside the road, left for dead. But Jesus came along, picked us up, bandaged our wounds, and healed us. If we build into our schedule a time to remember what Christ has done for us, we will grow in our compassion for others.
2. Love is intentional.
In the parable, the Good Samaritan carries out a “plan” to help the hurting man – he goes to him, bandages his wounds, puts him on his donkey, and takes him to an inn (Lk. 10:34-35). Jesus is “the author and perfecter of our faith” who is remaking us in His image.
True love has a goal in mind — the healing, redemption, and transformation of the one being loved. This means that we need to be proactive in our love, actively seeking ways to meet the needs of the people God brings into our lives.
Perhaps you need to schedule “dates” with your spouse and children. It may mean making a point to find out the needs of an elderly neighbor, or the single mother across the street. Love doesn’t just happen — it requires energy, passion, and a strong sense of purpose.
3. Love denies self. Jesus intended for us to realize that the Samaritan would not have been just strolling down this road. This was the road to and from Jerusalem, so the Samaritan was on a journey and probably had places to go. In order to meet the needs of the hurting man, he had to lay aside his own schedule and interests . If we are to love, we must change from a focus on ourselves (schedule, plans, dreams, etc.) to a focus on others.
Jesus illustrates this in his willingness to become incarnate and give his life for men. He “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8). Like Christ, we must consider others as more important than ourselves.
4. Love acts. Consider the contrast between the priest and Levite on the one hand and the Samaritan on the other. Jesus doesn’t say whether the priest and Levite had good intentions, he only tells us that they didn’t do anything to help the man. In contrast, the Samaritan acted to meet the real needs of the hurting man.
In the midst of our broken world, good intentions don’t count for much. When we see the devastation that sin has wrought in the lives of people around us, we must go beyond good intentions – we must act.
When I was in college, the bathroom stalls often contained “interesting” reading material. However, one statement that I found there rings true — “Love is a Verb.” For every hundred people that think or talk about doing something, only one will do it. It is not enough to just feel compassion for someone else, true love takes action to meet their needs.
5. Love gives.
In the parable, the Samaritan gives of both his time and money to help the man. Jesus knew that it would cost something if we choose to love others.
As a matter of fact, it cost Jesus everything to love us. In the last supper, Jesus taught his disciples that he was giving his body and blood – the essence of his physical life for them, and for us (Lk. 22:19, 20).
Tom has been visiting a young mother who is dying of AIDS. Recently, she told him the one thing she wanted was a dresser to put her clothes in. He told her he would pray about it and see what he could do. Tom asked around to find someone who might want to donate a dresser. But as Tom prayed, he became convicted by the Holy Spirit. “It was as if God was saying to me, ‘Here you have all the things you ever need, and you won’t even buy this woman a dresser.'” Three days later, they went together to a nice used furniture store and bought a dresser for her bedroom.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). If we know Christ and his love for us, we must love the people around us. Fill in four boxes of the following chart with specific things you can do this week.
Consider keeping it handy to review your progress at the end of the week.
Example: pray for each morning and evening
Example: Speak to your neighbor the next time he is in his yard
God has made you for fellowship with others it is part of the very essence of who you are as His image. Without deep relationships with other people, you will never find the lasting satisfaction that your heart desires.
One of the things that Christ came to do was to restore relationships between people. Love is the key to that task. Yet, too often, we are like the priest and Levite, living “religious” lives that are empty of love. We need to reflect daily on Christ’s love for us. Then we will reach out in love to those around us. The pleasures of this life satisfy for a moment, but the rewards of giving ourselves in love last for eternity.
David Delk is the Executive Director of Man in the Mirror.
©1995 David Delk. All rights reserved.