Love Your Neighbor – The Distortion

2 Tim. 3:1,2 says,
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,

Colossians 3:9-10 says,
Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it –

2 Peter 1:3 says,
“for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Romans 12:2,3 says,
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Matthew 23:11,12 says,
But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 16: 24,25 says,
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
 
I hope I don’t have to make a huge case for the reality that today, especially in this country. we live in self-absorbed, self-obsessed and self-directed culture. We take polls to find out what we’re thinking. We take selfies to announce where we are and what we’re all about. We promote ourselves and declare ourselves influencers. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The question that comes to mind here is, how does this interact with the Lord’s 2nd Great Commandment to love my neighbor? That’s what I want to look at today and why it matters.

****

It’s been several decades since I first noticed it. I stood in the grocery line waiting to check out. As we’ve all seen, there are these magazines there with headlines just begging us to pick them up. But it wasn’t the headline that caught my attention. No, it was the title of the magazine, Self. I’ve since found out that the magazine, which began in 1979, targets women’s health and fashion. But it was the title that spoke the loudest to me. Of course, now it just but one of many publications that caters to similar and related cultural pre-occupations. But like I said, it only takes just a cursory glance at our society to notice its self-absorbed character.

The reason I bring it up is because of its effect on how the 2nd Great Commandment is viewed and understood. As I mentioned, this self-focused cultural trend is not new. I first began to take note of it while working on my undergraduate degree in psychology. This human behavioral field is by its nature centered around human behavior, thought, motives and meanings. What was most notable to me, as a person of faith, was the almost complete absence of a Biblical understanding mankind. While the name and word “psychology” comes from the Greek meaning of the study of the pseuke or the soul, I could find little or no acknowledgment that such a thing existed as a soul. It was naturalistic, evolutionary and humanistic.

I only mention this because it is my opinion… let me say that again…it is my opinion, this behavioral discipline has had a profound and deep impact worldwide on the interpretation of human behavior. And while this discipline has provided a mountain of data charting how people develop, grow and act, it is in the area of interpreting the nature and the motivations of mankind that have deviated from any Biblical explanations of the human condition. Now, I do not have the space or time to speak to fullness of this in the context of the podcast. But I do want to look at how it has impacted our understanding of the 2nd Commandment. What do I mean?

Well, as I noted last week, a Biblical understanding of definition of love is God Himself. God defines love. The Bible says, “God is love.” How God loves, how He demonstrates love, provides the basis for any and all understanding of what love is and what loving means. The 2nd Commandment instructs us to love our neighbor. That’s the command. God said to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what I want to look at today is how a shift has occurred in emphasis from the command to love our neighbor to the comparative provided within the command.

Let me explain this using an illustration of comparatives. Long ago there was a parlor game. It was called Simile. Now, to understand the game you have to understand what a simile is and how it is differs from a metaphor. A Metaphor is a figure of speech where a word of a phrase is used in place of another as an analogy. A Simile is also a figure of speech, but it compares two unlike things and often introduced by the words “like” or “as.” For instance, “She’s a tiger when she’s angry.” That’s a metaphor. If I said, “She’s as fierce as a tiger.” That is a simile.
In the game of Simile, someone would provide a beginning a phase. For instance, “Tight as…” And then the other person would say, “As a drum.” Other examples could be, “Quiet as a mouse, Silent as the grave, Blue as the sky.” Now, the reason the game worked is that everyone understood the comparatives being used. You see, mice are quiet. The grave is silent, sky is blue.

The 2nd Commandment, grammatically is a Simile. God used this comparative to instruct us concerning the manner in which we are to love our neighbor. We are to love our neighbor in the manner in which we love ourselves. In the structure of the simile, it means that loving ourselves is a settled and understood matter. A mouse doesn’t become quiet in order to be a mouse. No, it is quiet because it has to be that way in order to remain unnoticed. The grave is by its nature silent. The sky appears to us as blue. It doesn’t have to become blue in order to be the sky. Well, in the same way, God commands us to love our neighbor with the equal attention that we give to the needs of our own well-being.

When Jesus quoted this commandment in Luke 10, He was asked “Who is my neighbor.” He then gave us the great parable of the Good Samaritan. You remember it. The parable points out how several individuals passed the injured man on the road. Now, they did so because their own personal considerations that dominated their decisions not to stop. They didn’t want to be inconvenienced or they didn’t want to touch him, whatever it was. What’s true is they thought of themselves first and foremost. The Samaritan on the other hand, saw the needs of the injured man as the most important consideration. He stopped, he cared for him and he got the man the help that he needed. It cost him to do so. It didn’t cost the injured man anything.

Now, why am I saying all of this. Well, the reason is simple. In modern times a deviation has occurred and has made its way into the understanding of this 2nd Commandment. I have read it in many places. I’ve even heard preached it in pulpits. It goes something like this. “I must love my neighbor as myself. Therefore, before I can love my love my neighbor, I must first learn to love myself.”

Well, while this is appealing in the cultural context of our current norms, it is neither grammatically nor theologically accurate. And the truth of the matter is, this viewpoint did not originate in any theological interpretation found within Church history. Its origin, in fact, came from sources outside the Church. It came from the behavioral discipline I mentioned earlier. You see, it became popular and dominate in the culture and has made its way into the lives of Christians today.

Let me provide you with one example. Carl Rogers, is a well-known and early author of the ideas of self-love, self-realization, self-esteem and self-actualization. His educational career became in the field of theology. He wanted to know the answers of the deep questions of life. But as time passed he rejected and abandoned Christianity eventually ending in area of the occult. He developed what became known as Client-Centered Therapy. He believed that the need to achieve self-actualization was one of the primary motives driving behavior. He can easily be called the father of the self-esteem movement in societal thinking. In his book entitled, On Becoming a Person, he said this, "Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas and none of my own ideas are as authoritative as my experience.

Carl Rogers was actually one of the first to popularize and use this very 2nd Commandment with the interpretive twist for the necessity to love self before being able to love another person. You can do the search yourself. I turned for instance recently, just typed in “self-love” and the first article to appear was one promoting the concept of loving self on the basis of loving another person.

But what does the Bible tell us? First, the Bible tells us that a preeminence in this area of self-love is a characteristic of last days evil. 2 Tim. 3:1,2 says,
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,

We don’t have to look further the week’s local headlines to read how a teenager pulls out a gun and shoots into a crowd of high schoolers and kills someone. We say, “Why?” Well, whatever the stated explanation, it basically comes down to the fact that it was what he wanted to do without any regard for anyone else.

The Bible also tells us that as followers of Christ, we have a new self within us. The old self and its nature are not what we move towards or follow. Colossians 3:9-10 says,
Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it –

The new work of God in us is based on a true knowledge, which is “according to the image of the One who created it.” Again, God is the standard. Our instruction comes from God not personal enlightenment informed by mere experience. Our own lives are not the well of truth for guiding our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 says,
for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

It is God and His revelation found in His Word which is the basis and standard for living and understanding life. God Himself defines reality and we are a part of that reality. The world and its definitions are not what we look to. We are to avoid conformity to its way or ideas. William Law, he was a British theological writer of the 16th Century who influenced men such as John & Charles Wesley, George Whitfield, Andrew Murray, William Wilberforce, he wrote this,
“Man needs to be saved from his own wisdom as much as from his own righteousness, for they produce the one and same corruption.”

This world and its wisdom will not save us and neither should it guide us. This is especially true in our understanding of how we are to love others and think of ourselves. Romans 12:2,3 says,
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment,

If you haven’t caught it from this or other things I have said, understand this, love by its nature is a display of humility. It is the putting the needs of another before that of myself. As one writer put it concerning those humble of hearts, “They have a high view of God, a sober view of self and a generous view of other people.

Jesus Christ Himself said it plainly in Matthew 23:11,12,
But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

This premier virtue of humility is how we are to view ourselves. In a world that’s occupied with self-absorbed concerns, we are called to love and serve as Christ instructed us. We are not to be instructed or deceived by a world whose lord is a liar and a deceiver.

You want to know how to think of yourself as a follower of Christ? He told us you know. We find it in Matthew 16:24,25,
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
You want a realization of who you are in Christ? It’s not in loving yourself. Truth is, we already do that. Even when we hate ourselves, in it we are consumed in thoughts of ourselves. If we feel guilty within ourselves, we are without ability to free ourselves. But Christ says, “You want to find life? Lose it for My sake and you’ll find it.”

Of all the people in this world, we should be the last ones to move away from the only place where we can find freedom, wholeness, and peace.

Run to Jesus. Stand on His truth.

That’s the only place I want to be.

Lord, teach us to love as You love. Help us to understand that there is no one less important than us, and so we should love our neighbor.

That’s the truth.
And that’s the Truth that Matters.

Recent

Archive

 2022

Categories

Tags

ANTIFA Abortion Absolute truth Afghanistan Aliens Amazon America Amy Coney Barrett Anxiety Art BLM Bears Beatitudes Bible Biden Big Tech COVID19 Canada Capitalism Censorship Children China Christmas Church History Climate Change Communism Conflict Congress Constitution Control Creativity Critical Race Theory Culture Death Deep State Discipleship Easter Economics Education Elijah Encouragement End Times Environmentalism Equality Euthanasia Evil Evolution Facebook Father's Day Father\'s Day Fatherhood Fear Foreign Policy Free Speech Freedom Gender Google Gospel Government Handouts Government Spending Government Guns Halloween Holidays Hollywood Intersectionality Islam Isolation Israel Jobs Judgment Justice Kamala Harris LGBTQ Liberal Life Loneliness Methodists Military Miracle Monkey Pox Movies Naturalism News Olympics Orwell Parenting Pastors Police Brutality Political Correctness Prayer President Prophecy Public School Reddit Religious Freedom Republican Resurrection Roman Empire Russia SBC Sacred Art School Shooting School Science Scopes Trial Second Ammendment Secularism Sin Social Justice Social Media Spiritual Warfare Stand Firm Suicide Surrender Surveillance Testimony Transgender Trump Ukraine Vaccine WWJD War Witchcraft Wokeism Worship church civil disobedience conspiracy election heresy hermeneutics history judgmental language love marriage modernism pandemic politics postmodernism racism rationality sex socialism sports supreme court truth vote white supremacy worldview