Friday, September 9, 2011

You Shall Love your Neighbor as Yourself


“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)

Do you understand what makes this command so hard for us to obey? Jesus is trying to pluck out the pride in our own hearts. In big letters he is writing: You love yourself so so so much. That’s the point of this command. The challenge is twofold: Love your neighbor by dying to self.

This command is so tied to the first command of loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (22:37). Jesus is trying to rearrange our lives in order for us to find true satisfaction. He knows the wrong order of love causes hurt and disorder in life. We can see this truth when we sin. When we sin against another human we show our lack of love for God therefore we do not love our neighbor. This reveals how much we truly do love ourselves. Jesus knows who we love the most because he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He does not tell us to love our neighbor as we love our money, house, cars, sports and the list could go on. We can be blinded to this because we tend to think we are pretty good people because we have never really done anything “bad”. For the most part we consider ourselves good people who do good things. You know the “Helping the old lady across the street” type of people. But the reality is we think too highly of ourselves.

If you still don’t get it, maybe I could shed some light by telling you this: what Jesus is commanding is impossible. We cannot love our neighbor as we love ourselves because our love for self is too great. The only possible way to love our neighbor at all is by pursuing our love for the Lord. When our hearts’ and desires are fully fixed upon our Savior we begin to love the way he loves. We begin to forget about self and begin to see others interest as more important than our own. Is this not the example Jesus gave us? “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5). The gospel is the only transforming power to order your life properly. Seeing and understanding the love of Christ is our motivation to love him fully. When our eyes are fixed on him alone then we begin to love others because we understand our role as humble servants bringing glory to the King by loving our neighbor. Then and only then do we begin to experience the abundant life found in Christ. When our lives are in the proper order then God is glorified and we find joy.

Scripture is great because God tells us about himself in the pages. He makes sense of everything in life. In his common grace he gives each of us a glimpse of the joy in loving our neighbors. I’m sure we have all experienced helping someone in need and we find satisfaction in serving them. But the satisfaction only goes so far. Unless your motive in helping is to glorify God then all you’ve really done in the end is add to your “good deeds”. You don’t need to be convinced you’re a good person but you need to know all your righteousness is as filthy rags to the holy Creator. Christ did not die on the cross so we could do good things or become good people. Christ died on the cross because we are sinners. Apart from him we cannot love him fully or love our neighbor to extent Christ has in mind when he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Only be grace can this be accomplished.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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