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This week is the second part of The Law of love. This week we’re going to be talking about loving others and with what’s going on around the country and the emotions we’re starting to deal with, loving others is one of the farthest things from some people’s minds. So let’s see how we as Christians are supposed to respond to those around us.
‘ Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ‘
Here’s the deal. The world wants us separated. I say the world but what I mean is Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, whatever you want to call him. I use the term “The World” because the world is what Jesus says we don’t belong to (John 15:19) and if we focus on it we lose sight of Him (Matthew 13:22). The world, through the media, politicians, and other leaders separates us. First by race, and it chops us up into little pieces; Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native Ameican, European American, African American. Then it separates us by income; high, middle, and low. Next comes region; north, south, northeast, midwest, California, Florida. Then by sexual orientation Gay, Straight, LGBTQ, Lesbian, Asexual. Then by religion; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, Fundamentalist, Social Gospel. Finally by political party Republican or Democrat but mainly conservative or liberal, because everyone has to be one or the other in order to separate us.
Every time we are separated from the people around us, we lose a little bit of ourselves. Because of the walls we put up between us and the people we live near, most Christians are more willing to go serve in another country than they are to serve the people in their neighborhood. Separation creates fear, and where there is fear, there is no love. Paul says in Philippians 4,
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ‘
How are we doing with that Peace that passes all understanding? If we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we can’t live in fear. One of the old cliches is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. The only way to get over our fear is to let God in to change us, and for us to move out into the world around us.
Where do we start?
The first place is to start by letting God love us so we can love ourselves, then love others. I talked about this last week so if you haven’t heard that episode you may want to listen to it too.
Anything that does not begin with prayer is probably not going to bear much fruit. We have to be willing to let God lead us and change us in order to get to an attitude of love. Each of the four groups I give below should be prayed over regularly in order to let God work. We can’t make ourselves do anything. The harder we try to be something the farther away from it we get. We can’t just will ourselves to love, we have to let God love through us.
Love Other Christians
1st John 4 directly addresses this,
‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. ‘
As Christians, we are supposed to love other Christians. By doing this it shows God’s love and helps His love to be perfected in us. This isn’t talking about anyone outside the church. This is talking only about Christians. In The Gospel of John chapter 15 Jesus says this is how the world will know us, ‘ “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” ‘
John writes about Jesus saying this in his gospel then reiterates it in a letter he writes. I think, to the Apostle John, loving other Christians was pretty important.
This is our training ground for the world. Pray for each other lifting everyone up in love. The church should be a place we go to and find peace and offer peace to those around us. We can Pray as we stand or sit in church for people we see or people we know are not there. We should pray especially for our priests and pastors and our church leadership. Let God remind you of his love and ask Him to open your eyes to see your Christian family who needs prayer.
Love Your Family
Okay, I admit, loving your family and loving your enemies may be the same thing for some people. This will be harder for some people than loving their enemies because enemies aren’t always in your head. In the daily devotional book Bread for the Journey (Affiliate Link), Henri Nouwen put this
Choosing Love June 14th
How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love-fear, hatred, violence, and abuse?
They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture have been able to choose love. By choosing love they became witnesses not only to human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.Henri Nouwen
If we have begun to let God change our view, we can begin to choose to love those who have hurt us. What I’m not saying is that you need to rush back in and embrace your abusive father or mother. I’m saying, start to let God change your view about the person who hurt you the most.
Sometimes all you can do is love from a distance. Praying for them changes the way you see them. It may not change them, but it changes your view of them. And again like I did in the last episode, I recommend the book Healing for Damaged Emotions (Affiliate Link). It helped me tremendously in dealing with past family issues.
But, for those of us without family problems, this is a great training ground as well. Loving your parents and siblings, your spouse and children, and your in-laws and extended family. (Colossians 3, Ephesians 5 and 6, 1st Timothy 5, and Dozens of Proverbs and Psalms) Let’s start with honor your father and mother and we’ll see how it goes.
Love Your Neighbor
But Steve you ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I’m glad you asked that question valued listener. I’m going to say, the people next door to start with. If you’re like me, you may not even know your neighbor next door very well. I know their names but not much else. This goes back to what I was talking about at the beginning. We would rather go to another country than talk to our actual neighbors. Start with prayer. You don’t have to be friends with people to love them. If the guy next door moves in and puts up an eight-foot privacy fence, don’t complain, just pray. If you get a chance, say hello and wave but don’t mumble under your breath that he’s a jerk.
Other neighbors are people who we see in need. That was the premise of the Good Samaritan story. The person who showed mercy was the neighbor. We get very uncomfortable when we see homeless people or people in need. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them. If you are like a lot of people I know and talk to, you don’t like to give money to panhandlers because “They’ll just use it to buy drugs or alcohol.” They may do just that, but that’s not your business. Give the guy a buck and don’t wish he’d just go away. If you don’t want to give money make up a gallon freezer bag of ready to eat food and give that to them. Either way, don’t act like they don’t exist. And don’t put gospel tracks in them.
Love Your Enemies
Every person I mentioned above, by today’s definition, may be considered our enemy. Which is using the word out of context but if we really don’t like someone today we label them our enemy. An enemy is supposed to be someone who attacks you, but today they can be people we just disagree with. I’ve heard Christians say they hate people with different political views than they have. Everything goes back to the beginning. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. We can’t understand people we refuse to listen to. We can argue and say things today and remain anonymous in ways we couldn’t think of ten years ago. We need to reframe who our enemies actually are and stop making enemies out of our fellow human beings.
Any time we label or place another person into a separate group, we are defaming God because God created them. He told Jeremiah, Before you were born, I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). Paul says in Titus 3,
‘Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.’ As Christians, we are to show courtesy to everyone. How can I show courtesy if I think someone is stupid for the way they vote?
If you need more examples, Ephesians 4:29-31, Colossian 3:8, 1 Peter 2, 1 Timothy 2,
We’re not supposed to be people who live in fear and hate. We are to be people of prayer and trust.
You Can’t Love Everybody
I get that. Only God has the ability to love everyone. But if we start to pray more for people we disagree with. Stop speaking evil of people we know or don’t know. Don’t quarrel with people online or in the office. And be a little more gentle on ourselves and others I think we will have made a good start. We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves.
If you made it this far then I assume you agree just a little with what I’ve said. I would appreciate it if you shared this message to help get the word out, but more importantly, pray for someone you disagree with this week.