Love Others ~ 20200524 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/24 Obey Jesus: Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Enemy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200524_love-others.mp3
We are called to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded; so what does he command us as his disciples?
In the past weeks we have looked at what we love. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, spouse, son or daughter. Giving to him our primary allegiance may prove very costly, even alienating the closest of earthly relationships. But our allegiance to him must run deeper than blood.
We saw that he warns us to beware what we treasure, because some loves are treacherous and will seek to displace him as our primary affection. We cannot serve both God and money. He commands us to drop our baggage, the things that hold us back from following him wholeheartedly, and come, follow him.
Today we are going to look at another command of Jesus regarding what we love. Let’s start with the greatest command according to Jesus.
The Great and First Commandment
In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked a question by a religious expert to test him.
Which is the great commandment in the Law? The question suggests that we ought to go to God’s top ten list, the Ten Commandments, and pick one to hold up above the others. But Jesus doesn’t even go to the big ten. He goes to Deuteronomy 6, the ‘Shema’; a regularly recited passage well known to every Jew. Love God with your whole being. The law is not so much about keeping commandments, following rules, prioritizing which rule to put above others. It is really about affections. It is about what you love. And you must love God above all. Your primary allegiance must be for God alone. All your emotional energy, all your mental capacity, your whole inner being must be fully engaged in loving God. This is the great and first commandment. Love for God is foundational. Above any commandment keeping must stand our treasuring of God, our love for God.
The Second is Like It
But Jesus makes this a two-for-one deal. He was asked which is the great commandment, and Jesus gives him two. The second that he pairs with the first comes from Leviticus 19:18, 34.
The second is like it. We must love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are commanded to expend the same mental and emotional energy, the same impulse to self-preservation, the same commitment to the good of others that we naturally give to ourselves.
All The Law and the Prophets
Jesus pairs loving God with loving neighbor, and says that on these two together hang all the Law and the Prophets. These two sum up the entirety of what the Old Testament Scriptures taught.
God created man to be in loving relationship with himself, and to care for his creation under him. But we rebelled and loved the things he created more than himself. Our lust for power and possessions spiraled so low,
He chose one man and called him out of his idolatry to follow him, and promised that through his descendant he would bless the nations. He gave his chosen people his commandments, but they continuously went astray. He sent prophets to call them back to himself, to love for God and neighbor, to be blessed in relationship with himself, and to be a blessing to others.
Love God and love neighbor. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Every other command is expansion, clarification, application of these. As Paul says in Romans 13,
And in Galatians 5,
All the commandments are summed up in this one word. The whole law is fulfilled in one word.
John, in his first short letter to the churches, says
It is easy to say you love God, but that is difficult to prove or disprove. But how you treat your brother is easily seen. And John says, if you claim to love God but hate your brother, you’re a liar.
Who Is My Neighbor?
In Luke 10, Jesus is being put to the test by another religious expert. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25). Jesus pointed him to the Law and asked him how he understood it. This man replied with the same summary Jesus gave: to love God with heart and soul and strength and mind, and neighbor as self.
Who is my neighbor. He wanted to justify himself; he wanted to feel that he was doing well. He wanted to limit the scope of God’s command to make it doable. Define who it is I’m to love, and I’ll work hard to do it. If my neighbors are the two people who live on either side of me, it will be hard, but I can suck it up and tough is out and show love and kindness to them, if that’s what it takes to gain eternal life.
To answer his question, ‘who is my neighbor, Jesus paints a picture of a man in desperate need, and a priest and Levite come across his path, both interested in pleasing God through ritual purity, but not willing to compromise their purity to help a man in need. The shocking hero to Jesus’ story is a Samaritan low life half-breed good-for-nothing, scorned and despised by the Jews. Samaria was the northern neighbor to Judea, who after Israel had been conquered by Assyria in 722BC had intermarried with pagans and integrated their pagan worship practices (2Ki.17). The Samaritan in Jesus’ story is the one who had compassion and went far out of his way to put the needs of this man above his own. Jesus concludes:
Your question should not be ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The question must not be one of limiting the scope to justify yourself. That is wrong-hearted. The question is ‘Do I prove to be a neighbor to those around me, those in need? Do I seek to show mercy or do I steer clear?’
The way Jesus framed his story using a despised Samaritan as the hero stirred up all kinds of resentment and animosity and show them their hearts and how they really felt about their neighbors.
Notice how this man answered. The three characters in Jesus’ story were a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. But this religious expert couldn’t even answer Jesus’ question by uttering the name ‘Samaritan.’
Love your neighbor as yourself. Be a neighbor to those in need. You, show mercy to others, even if they are different from you, even if they are your enemies.
Love Your Enemies
Jesus takes this up a notch in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.
Love, do good to, bless, pray for. When Jesus says ‘love’, he doesn’t have in mind a mere emotion. That is part of it, but it is more. The good Samaritan saw the need, he had compassion, and his compassion led to action, he invested time and energy and his own resources. Loving involves doing good, praying for, and seeking to bless others.
Jesus commands that this kind of love be extended even to our enemies, those who hate and persecute and curse and abuse you. Seek to bless them, to do them good, pray for them.
Actions have consequences. Evil actions will be punished. So Jesus is not saying that when it is in our power to escape from or stop the evil action, we allow an abuser or persecutor to continue. That’s not loving. Jesus is saying that we do good to them, we pray for them. This means that our prayer ultimately is that they would turn from their evil deeds and find forgiveness and freedom and new life in Jesus.
Matthew 5 has:
You must be perfect. Love your enemies. Be kind, even to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful to the just and the unjust.
If you are honest with yourself, you know this is impossible. But as we have seen throughout this study, that’s what Jesus’ commands are. Impossible. It is impossible to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. It is impossible to love neighbor as self. It is impossible to love, do good to, pray for and seek to bless our enemies. That is humanly impossible. This requires the work of the Spirit of the living God inside of us.
Corrie ten Boom
I want to end with a story from Corrie ten Boom, who was arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, who survived the horrors of a concentration camp (although her sister Betsie did not). She went on to share God’s love and forgiveness with many. She writes
Romans 5 says:
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org