Love Your Neighbor – The Commandment

Love Your Neighbor – The Commandment [TRANSCRIPT]

Matt. 22:36-40 says,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.

Leviticus 19:18 says,
‘You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Matt. 5:42-43 says,
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Galatians 5:13-14 says,
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

Col. 3:14 says,
In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

“Loving your neighbor” That seems easy enough to understand don’t you think? The world seems agreeable enough to the idea of being nice. That’s how some view this commandment. They might put it alongside the Golden Rule. “Treat others well, treat them nice, that pretty much covers it doesn’t it?” But what is this 2nd Great Commandment? What does it really mean? Let’s look at it.

***

Why is it that mankind can take simple things and make them complicated? For instance, if you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline, then you’ve heard the safety instruction speech. Remember it? “Smoking is prohibited on the entire aircraft, including the lavatories. Tampering with, disabling or destroying the lavatory smoke detectors is prohibited by law.” Why is it that they couldn’t simply tell people “Don’t mess with the smoke detectors?” Why all the qualifications? The reason really speaks for itself, our default tendencies. Let’s look at what I mean.

First of all, love is something that is universally spoke about. I mean, there’s endless novels, books, poems, songs, all talking about love. And as long as we keep the discussion very general there seems to be agreement.  Love is a good thing. Love is needed. As one song says, “All we need is love.” Sing it loud enough and you can get a huge crowd swaying together and singing it with depth and feeling. We need love! But is that what the Bible is talking about in the 2nd Great commandment? Or is it more specific?

I want to do a little elementary instruction. You see, the word LOVE is actually both a noun and a verb. In other words, as a noun it describes a thing. It could be a feeling, a desire, or a general state of being. As a verb, the word describes an action. But simply looking at the English word, we have to add more words to it itself in order to know what’s being said. When many people talk about love they tend to speak of love as a thing. It can be a something they enjoy like “being in love.” It could be a desire like “I love pizza.” Or it could be something like “we need more love in the world.” And hearing each of these, we understand and perhaps have used the word in these ways.

In contrast, in the language of the Bible, especially in the New Testament, the very spelling of the word automatically tells us whether the word is being used as a noun or a verb. Now, this is especially helps us in understanding what the Bible means by what it says.

In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus is asked very directly about the topic in regards to God’s view of premier importance.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.

The last two weeks we’ve looked at the first Great Commandment, to Love God. If you missed it, you need to go back and view it or listen to it. But Jesus said, the second commandment is connected to the first. Together they form the linchpin for the entire Law and the Prophets. The commandment to love our neighbor is of the highest value and importance before God.

Now, also notice something else. The word Love here is a command. That means it is a verb. It is something we do. It cannot be reduced to merely something we feel, something we desire, or some general state of being. Love is something God commands us to do. Not only that, but this love is directed to someone else. The command is not in the middle voice. The command is directed towards others outside of ourselves.

In the Old Testament, there’s really only one word for love. It is the word raheb. Like in English, it can be used to describe various actions, aspects of love from affection to love, to that of being a friend or loving a friend. The context determines the full aspect of the meaning. In the command of Leviticus 19:18 which we’ll look in just a minute, God is the one who sets the stage for the meaning.

In the language of the New Testament, there’s actually three words for love that can be used.  However, the one selected for the 2nd Commandment is uniquely connected to God. It is the word agapeo. The word is used exclusively for believers. It has a moral dimension. It doesn’t speak to love as merely a sentiment or emotional experience. It is a God kind of love. It’s a sacrificial love. It’s a self-giving love. It’s a self-sacrificing love.

Now, when someone may say, “Wait a minute. It does say love my neighbor as I love myself.” We’ll talk about that next week. Part of this is looking at love as a noun. But let me just say this on that. In order to talk about love as a noun we cannot get around what God has told us about love. In 1 John 4:8. “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Both in any description of love or understanding of love as a command, God is the reference point. God Himself defines love. Like I said, we’ll look more at that next week in detail.

Today I want to look at the command as it’s simply stated. This is the command from God. Remember that. It is a command as a verbal call to action requiring a response. And Jesus states that this command is a stated summation of all that He has spoken concerning our interaction between Him and us and between us and others. Some people see for instance the God of the Old Testament as a God of judgment, and the God of the New Testament as the God of love. And yet, this command is given in the Old Testament and then restated in the New Testament. This reminds us. The same command is from the beginning and it is from God. And it carries all the way to the present.

Now, let’s look what I mean. In Leviticus 19:18 the Bible says,
You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

This command here to love our neighbor, in it God instructs us what following that command looks like. He does this by using the contrast of the opposite. He starts by revealing that love doesn’t treat people with actions of vengeance. Love doesn’t treat people with retaliation. To love a neighbor means that revenge has no place in our actions towards others.

Not only that, but loving a neighbor goes deeper. It affects us in how we view them and how we view others. In other words, in order to truly obey the command to love our neighbor, there can be no revengeful attitude of personal justice. Attitude precedes action. And in the area of obeying the command to love, how we view a person impacts how we act toward them. And with God, our loving must be real, true, authentic.

When Jesus came, He addressed this matter of genuinely loving others. To do that, He quoted some of the qualifications for instance that people added to the commandment. We see this in Matthew 5:42-43. He said,
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
 
What better way to illustrate how God sees and loves mankind. Where people want to make exceptions for following the commandment to love others, Jesus uses the example of how the God, who is love, expresses that love. He tells us that we are to love our enemies. We are to pray for them, even those who persecute us. This love is beyond anything that has its origin in mankind. This is a God kind of love. This is the nature and the fabric of the command to love others.

And of course, what does the commandment to love others look like within the family of the redeemed? Well, in Galatians 5:13-14 Paul instructs the family on that matter.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

As believers in Christ, we’ve been given freedom from the penalty and the power of sin in our lives. Now, one of the things that we see illustrated everywhere, is people using freedom as a means of breaking any restrictions from their own self-directed lives. Even in the area of love, people today speak of a love without boundaries or restrictions. I’m reminded of the song lyrics that says, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” This is basically saying that I want love like I want love. I get to define love. Sound familiar?

Instead, God tells us in this passage that our freedom is not to be an occasion to redefine love to please ourselves. Love is expressed in serving others through love. Love is conveyed in serving others in that love that we are to live out. Paul reiterates that fact that of obedience to the commandment of love. It is the fulfillment of the Law. The Law is an expression of God’s desire. Perhaps I’ve said it before, but I don’t remember. But whenever we hear a command from God, what we are seeing is the character of God. God commands us to love because He is Love. And love always points outward towards others. That’s what God’s love looks like.

One more word about loving within the family. We see this in Colossians 3:14 where it says, “In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” The command to love manifests itself in the reality of love. In other words, when we obey the command to love it comes out as love. And this should seem obvious but so that we won’t be mistaken or deceived. Love unifies the people around God, who is the originator of love, which is God Himself. The family of God is united by a common love given to us and that love binds us to each other.

You might have noticed that I haven’t really dealt with the topic of deception in relation to the command to love our neighbor. We will look at that next week. But know this, one of the ways that we can spot a counterfeit is knowing the authentic, knowing what it looks like. If we thoroughly know and understand what real godly love looks like, the fake is easy to spot and detect.

We know that when we obey the commandment to love our neighbor, it is not directed at the self. Love is an outwardly expressed action. It is my neighbor that is the object of the love that I am commanded to express. Love flows outward. Our neighbor is someone other than ourselves.

The love that God commanded us is to be also authentic. There’s to not be any hidden motives or agendas in this. We are to view and act towards others in love as God commanded. Fake love does not fulfill the commandment to love. Qualified love won’t fool God as obedience to what He’s commanded.

There’s also no room for anything less than authentic love within the family. Love in the family serves unselfishly. It unifies members of the family because it has a common origin, which is God Himself.

God defines love because He is love. Where there is no love as God defines it, God’s not there either. We do not and must not seek to define love with added qualifications that we want to add. We don’t determine or define true love, God does. He Himself is the definition of love and He demonstrated to all creation.

For instance, He loved His enemies. Guess what? We were His enemies. Romans 5:8 states it clearly, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Any attaching of selfish qualifications to the command to love is silenced before how God demonstrated His love. So, we are not left to wonder what this kind of love looks like. Because every one of us, true believers, are recipients of the true and authentic love of God. His love is not fake but is proven by the actions that He demonstrated.

I’m thankful that God loved His enemies because I was an enemy. That’s who we all were before He came to us with His love. What compares to that love? He is the standard for 2nd Commandment and we are His beneficiaries. So, it makes sense that He would command us to love in this manner and nothing less.

This is the truth. And it’s a truth worth our attention and obedience. In God’s law His desire is fulfilled. His law is fulfilled.

It’s another demonstration of why Truth Matters.

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