Love God XI “And Your Neighbor”

Introduction: Who Wants Eternal Life?
“Who wants to enjoy eternal life with God and his kingdom forever?” Jesus asks. Everyone puts their hands up. “It’s actually pretty simple” Jesus continues, “Just love God first and with all and then love your neighbor as your yourself.” A lawyer sitting in the audience is critically analyzing Jesus’ every word. He asks a follow up question, “Technically speaking Jesus, who is my neighbor.” He sought clarification for three reasons: (1) He desperately wanted eternal life. (2) He really loved himself. (3) If he knew exactly who his neighbor was he could know who to love and who not to love. Afterall, he only had so much love to go around! As was his custom, Jesus followed up the lawyer’s follow up question with a story and then a follow up question of his own. The story is found in Luke 10:30-35
 
30 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any expenses you may have.’
 
Who Loved His Neighbor As Himself?
After telling this story Jesus asks the lawyer (v36): “In the tragic case of the man victimized by the thugs which of the three people loved his neighbor as himself?”
 
Consider the lawyer considering, “Hmmm! The religious professionals, i.e., the Levite and the priest, should have automatically loved the victim, after all, they routinely teach on the GC. However, they are charter members of my, “We don’t do what we propose, we just propose” club. They get paid to be compassionate, but they just blew the guy off. What’s up with that? It can’t be them so the inescapable conclusion is the one who showed him mercy. He was the one who loved his neighbor as himself.”
 
“Bingo!” Jesus affirms. The Samaritan demonstrated incredible “neighbor love” by digging deep into his own life to help the victim. He practically loved the victim with his time, talent, and treasure. He used his time and talent to bandage the victim’s wounds. He spent his time and treasure to buy and apply expensive healing balm to treat the man. He then took even more of his time and treasure to take the befallen to a hospital and pay for all of his out-of-pocket expenses.
 
Our Neighbor Is Anyone Who Has Needs
Although Jesus lifts up the Samaritan as the model of someone who loved his neighbor as himself, the lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbor” was not answered directly but indirectly. Our neighbor, as inferred in this story is: Anyone who is in need therefore everyone is our neighbor!
 
Everyone has needs, some just different, more plentiful, and more complex than others, i.e., emotional, physical, relational, spiritual, financial (the biggest of which is their need for Jesus). Thus, to inherit eternal life, Jesus says we must practically love them just as the Samaritan loved the man who was beaten up and left for dead on the Jericho Road. Everyone is our neighbor and our neighborhood is the world. Jesus will not allow the question of “Who is my neighbor” to have any limitations, parameters, or truncations. Here’s why: to define our neighbor as a specific person or demographic allows us to be selective, efficient, and economical in our loving, which is diametrically opposed to the way God loves. This is why the lawyer asked the question in the first place. If he was allowed to define and designate who his neighbor was, he could justify not loving anyone who didn’t fit into his neighbor box. It is easy to love those who love us, and those who love us generally look like us, act like us, think like us and vote like us. Jesus once asked, “If you love only those who love you what’s the big deal, even the worst people on the planet do that” (Matthew 5:46)? When the Samaritan saw his neighbor in need he, just like State Farm, was there to heap practical love upon him. And so must we if we want eternal life. *Contra The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus*
 
Spiritual & Practical
The beauty of Christianity is that it merges both the spiritual and practical. It is spiritual in the sense that we are reconciled with God through Jesus Christ and as such, we enjoy a personal, dynamic, loving, and interactive relationship with him. It is spiritual in that we worship him, “do all things for his glory” (I Corinthians 10:31) and “Keep our hearts and minds set on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2). It is spiritual in that we cultivate the “spiritual disciplines” e.g., prayer, meditation, Scripture, giving, etc.,… that keep us growing in our love for God.
 
Practical Christianity
However, out of our spiritual love for God emerges a practical love for others. If the Church needs to improve on something today it’s practical Christianity. WE are not practical enough. Too much of our love is, “In word only and not in deed” (I John 3:18). Too much of it is talk. Too much of it is about personal needs, personal experience, and personal salvation. In other words, too much of our faith is about spiritual naval gazing. Thus, much of our faith has gone the way of the inwardly focused religions which basically say, “I’m just trying to get me, myself, and I into heaven, the heck with everyone and everything else.”
 
But Jesus is clear that if we want eternal life we need to be spiritual in our love for God and practical in our love for others. “Love others even as we love ourselves.” As ourselves. Let that sink in. As ourselves. We don’t need encouragement to love ourselves. It’s inborn and natural. And that’s OK. Loving self is right, normal, and healthy. Loving self is God given because God loves himself. Loving self is not the problem. ONLY loving self is. ONLY loving God is. Loving self the most is. CS Lewis touched on this problem when he said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself it’s thinking of yourself less.” If we hijacked CS’s thoughts on humility and applied to our message this morning we might say, “Love is not loving yourself less, it’s loving others more.”
 
Conclusion
After answering the neighbor question, Jesus tells the lawyer to “Go and do likewise” (v37). “Go out and do practical Christianity like the Samaritan did.” “If you want eternal life then go out and spiritually love God first and then practically love your neighbor as yourself.” Brian Zahnd says the Church can do this by:
 
Loving Our Enemies
Renouncing Violence
Sharing Our Money
Welcoming Foreigners
Forgiving Others
 
In Matthew 25:40-45 Jesus said practical love was to house the homeless, feed the hungry, hydrate the thirsty, and clothe the naked. If we start here, we will be well on our way to eternal life. Now let’s get out of the four walls of our church and do likewise.Love 
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