December 1, 2010

To Live is Christ — love my neighbor

The greatest biblical law is to love God. Next is to love my neighbor. Liberal theologians like this commandment. A mainline church leader once told me that he must be a Christian because he “loved” people.

It sounds good. I think I love people too, but when pressed, the love that most people have in mind is a “this makes me feel good” emotion for those who agree with me. Biblical love is far more than feelings.

For instance, when Jesus was asked to define a neighbor, He told a story to indicate that anyone in trouble, even someone I don’t like, is my neighbor. This makes loving others a challenge and an action, not an emotion. Today’s verse says it this way. 

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2)
The Greek word for pleasing another person, besides the obvious meaning, is “to accommodate one’s self to the opinions desires and interests of others.” This means love is not a mealy-mouth agreement given merely to avoid conflict, nor is it about emotional warm fuzzies. To love like this requires that I am so focused on what is important to others that my own opinions and desires do not matter.

I’m sure that Paul isn’t saying that I am to compromise my faith. Love isn’t about pleasing others by agreeing with lies or anything that contradicts the Word of God. It is caring about them to the point that I want the very best for them. That means encouraging them in all that is right and good.

I was talking to someone who was struggling with a decision. One choice was clearly more “righteous” than the other one. When asked my opinion, love encouraged the second option.

This is easy for friends and people that I like, but it should not matter if the neighbor is an obnoxious person or someone who scorns faith. Loving them means encouraging them to do right, even if they laugh it off and seem not interested. Before I became a Christian, a few believers loved me in this sense. I didn’t always follow their advice, but to this day, I still remember that they cared.

I’m not sure what the days ahead will offer as challenges, but I am certain that obedience to this verse will be important. I’m also certain that loving others like this is beyond my ability apart from the grace of God. Thankfully, He cares for me and does what is best for me. I have an incredible example to follow.

1 comment: said...

New to your blog. Well said!