Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

My pastor’s preaching a series based on a book called This Was Your Life – Preparing to Meet God Face to Face by Rick Howard and Jamie Lash. As a good congregant I bought the book, which centers on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 describing Christians’ judgment of rewards before Christ.

In short Christians are not judged on sin – Jesus took care of that for those who choose to accept His free gift of grace. Instead Christians are judged based on what we did for the kingdom of God on earth.  The account in 1 Corinthians is interesting because it says that all our works will be put through fire and those that remain will be rewarded. Some will have works akin to gold, silver, and precious stones that do not burn up, while others will have works akin to wood, hay, and stubble that will burn up, leaving that person in heaven but with no reward.

The gist of the book is it is indeed important that we use our gifts to glorify God and that Jesus is eager to reward us. Every knee will bow before Him so it’s really something to think about now. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. There’s another part of the book that really got me thinking that I want to share.

The authors talk about what Jesus expects from us so that we can be rewarded. One of the most obvious things is Jesus telling us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and the second is like it love your neighbor as yourself.  It’s the loving your neighbor part that caught my attention. Let me just quote from the book and I think you’ll see why.

“Sometimes I do not feel like loving the poor, the hurting or the unsaved. How can I get the motivation I need to reach to them? Should I try to motivate myself by feeling guilty? God’s way is different – and much more effective. The motivation comes from obeying these words: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31). Jesus illustrated this principle with the story of the Good Samaritan.

“Did Jesus say the Samaritan was motivated by feelings of love to help the wounded man? On the contrary, Jesus had already disclosed the Samaritan’s secret: He loved his neighbor as himself. In other words, he thought, If I had been beaten and robbed, and if I were lying half-dead in the street, what would I want someone to do for me? This motivation to help came from the mindset he had chosen to adopt. The two who passed the wounded man before the Samaritan arrived could have helped him, but they failed to put themselves in his shoes.”

I had always thought that loving your neighbor as yourself was about caring for others the way you would care for yourself and honestly it was burdensome for a few reasons. First, I really don’t think about caring for myself that much. It’s just not on my mind. I do what I do without much thought unfortunately. Second, there are things about myself I don’t love, which makes it hard to project love in those areas on others. Third as a man “love” is not my strength. Scripture teaches that respect , loyalty, duty, honor, work, and those types of things are a man’s strength not love, which is why scripture commands men to do it. You’ll never read scripture commanding a woman to love; it comes naturally to them. So when I am commanded to “love” another as I “love” myself I don’t really think in those terms about my world.

That’s why I appreciate how Howard and Lash frame it in this book. I very much can put myself in other people’s shoes. If I were to think about loving others as myself in terms of putting myself in another’s place and figuring out how I would want to be treated it makes it rather easy to see how I should react to my world.

But if you’re like me perhaps putting yourself in other’s shoes is not naturally your first thought. That means we have to replace our habitual reaction to our world with this new idea: Love your neighbor as yourself by putting yourself in his/her place and determining how you would like to be treated in that situation.  By doing so it eliminates “feelings” as the motive for doing or not doing and gets us into a more pure motive for obedient action.

I can already see how it would change my mind-set.  I have a kind of dark sense of humor, but when I think about loving my neighbor as described above I know I wouldn’t want people making fun of me in their minds the way I do others. Something I have to work on. I also know that I am a pretty intense personality who speaks his mind, but I could see that how I phrase things can seem accusatory or intimidating if I were on the receiving end so I have to work on softening my touch a little.

How about you? If you were on the receiving end of the things you do how would you respond? Are there things in your life that perhaps you could do better if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes and loved them like you love yourself?  You may want to take a moment and write down some of those areas and start working on them one by one.

Obviously we all want to follow the greatest commandment but as fallen creatures we struggle. I think Howard and Lash have given us a new way to look at loving our neighbor like ourselves that honestly is easier to do than perhaps many of us have been trying in the past.

Today is Thursday – commit with me to try this new way of looking at things through next Friday and see if it starts to make a difference in your life!

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One comment

  1. Byron H. · · Reply

    I’m still pondering this, and trying to figure out the best way to plug this into my life not just as a concept, but as a battle plan. I still find it hard to love enemies, or at least those people whose interests conflict with me. But I guess true growth comes from stuff that is hard, right? That’s why we life weights or exercise because our bodies will be better for it!

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