Lesson 12 -- third quarter 2005
August 21, 2005
© Copyright 2005, Christian Light Publications
Probing Your Own Heart
Do you love God and your neighbor?
Do they know it?
Building on Some Foundational Concepts
The command to love my neighbor is given in the context of my eternal destiny.
We cannot earn or buy an inheritance. In a natural sense, all I have to do to be in line for an inheritance from my father is be his child. The same holds true spiritually. The ones who receive eternal life have not earned it or bought it. They have inherited it by being children of the heavenly Father. Jesus' teaching here does not contradict that but rather, illuminates it. You see, only the Father's children love Him and their neighbors as they ought. And only they receive the gift of eternal life.
I am to love my neighbor no less than I love myself.
If we submit our life to careful and objective scrutiny, we have to admit that much of what we do results from a natural regard for ourselves. We do not have that kind of natural regard for everyone else...until God gives us a new nature.
If I can help him, he is my neighbor.
Identifying our neighbor is not complicated at all. If he needs my love, he is my neighbor. If she needs my help, she is my neighbor. If God puts them in my path to love and help, they are my neighbors.
Knowing the right answers is not enough.
We can see that the lawyer had the right answers...just like we do. We can also see that he had to live by those answers...just as we do.
Questions and Responses
What if I don't love myself?
We don't solve this problem by trying harder to love ourselves. Having this problem reveals a greater root problem. The root problem, in fact -- the most basic problem anyone can have. Look again at the answer the lawyer provided to his own question.
To inherit eternal life we must first love God fully, thoroughly, and unreservedly. Not loving God is the root that gives life and nourishment to all other problems. Thus the answer to the question does not lie in trying harder to love ourselves. We find the solution in loving God with our all. Those who thus love God also love themselves as they ought.
But how do I be a godly neighbor?
Good neighbors are there. I want my neighbors to be dependable and trustworthy, available when I need their help. Is that how they perceive me, though? They should know that I will gladly and willingly help them in any way I can.
Good neighbors watch out for each other. Such neighbors aren't just there, waiting to be called on for help. They are on the lookout for needs and problems. As a Christian neighbor, I should be alert to the needs in my community. Furthermore, I should watch for the souls of my neighbors.
Good neighbors go beyond the call of duty. These folks go the second mile for their neighbors. The second-miler goes beyond the call of duty for the sole good of the other, even at personal expense. The genuine second-miler will exceed duty even toward an adversary or toward one who has taken advantage of him. And he does it without thought of personal gain.
How do I become a better neighbor?
Love God. Being a real good neighbor demands more of me than I can possibly deliver. But God has an incredible amount of experience in being a good neighbor. As I love Him, His love is shed abroad in my heart...and then it is shed abroad from my heart! We can easily infer from the Lord's words that our love for our neighbor flows very naturally from our love for God. In fact, Jesus very closely relates these two loves in Matthew 22:37-40.
Enjoy mercy. To enjoy mercy we first need to experience mercy. But even having experienced mercy does not guarantee we will derive enjoyment from it. For this to happen we must also value mercy, considering that we do not deserve any. This kind of balanced perspective frees us to express mercy to our neighbor...which is precisely what the Lord commands (Luke 10:36,37 cf Luke 18:33)!
Gain wisdom. How can this help make me a better neighbor?! Sure, it can give me the good ideas I need and all that, but beyond that, how does wisdom help? "He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour" (Proverbs 11:12). Interesting!
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