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Monday, May 16, 2022

Love Your Neighbor

We all know the command. I think even unbelievers can often quote it. "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Yada, yada, yada. So some will try and some won't but what few ever do is ask, "What does that mean?" To be fair, it's because we think we know, but do we? The standard (in this command) for loving your neighbor is "as you love yourself." How do you love yourself? I mean, just what does that mean? Let's see if we can figure it out.

From the face of it, the whole thing seems a bit much. What if my neighbor is unlovable? What if my neighbor is a jerk? What if my neighbor does bad things? This isn't hard to imagine primarily because it's so common. So how am I supposed to have these warm feelings toward that jerk? The easy answer, of course, is that you're not. You're supposed to love your neighbor in the same sort of manner that you love yourself. How do you love yourself? Are you always lovable? Are you never a jerk? Do you ever do bad things? Of course you do. If you're honest, all the time. And you would know best because one of your traits (I only know this because it is common to us all) is that you can cover it up much of the time ... but not to you. So you know quite well your faults and foibles, sins and misdemeanors, your failures and deviations. And, still, you continue to seek your best. You continue to hope for good things for you. You continue to try to take care of, to tend to your needs. If you're honest, sometimes you don't like you very much, but that doesn't stop you from feeding and clothing and housing yourself. And that is what is meant by "as you love yourself."

We are commanded to love our neighbors -- and Jesus is quite clear that this includes anybody with whom you come in contact -- as you love yourself. That doesn't mean we are required to feel warmly toward everyone we encounter. It doesn't mean we like everyone we see. It doesn't mean we think well of them all at all times. To believe that is to buy a version of "love" not intended in Scripture. No, the idea is that we are to love them in the same way that we seek our own best. The idea is that "each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Php 2:4). Love your neighbor that way. Then, of course, you can start loving your fellow believers as Christ has loved you. The ultimate love.

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