Loving My Neighbor As Myself
Love my neighbor…really? How can we learn to love the guy next door with the barking dog, especially when we don’t even like him? Everybody has that person in their life that is hard to like let alone love. But loving them is not as hard as it looks on the surface. Perhaps the secret is to recognize that our neighbor, whether it’s the guy next door, the cashier at the local grocery store, or the person sitting next to you at church, is someone as worthy of God’s love. It means respecting others and regarding their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own. Keeping this commandment, however, is likely to require the supernatural assistance only God, through Christ, can provide.
Something To Talk About:
“Loving our neighbors” is a serious business because it’s the basic physics of relationships. If we hope to develop healthy friendships or marriages, reconcile social injustices, unify churches, or do just about anything worth doing, we need to take learning to love seriously. The world literally runs on love. Consider the following steps:
- I must see the needs: Most people are worrying about their own plans and aren’t looking out for the interests of others. Most people don’t get up in the morning and give their first thought to how someone else is doing. If you want to be one of those rare, unselfish people, you’ve got to change your focus. You have to shift your focus away to others. It means we need to stop missing the needs of people around us because we weren’t paying attention. I wasn’t taking an interest in them so I missed their needs. We need to be intentional about looking away from ourself and to the needs of others. The Good Samaritan first saw the hurting man and saw his needs. Luke 10:33-34 says, “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.”
- I must sympathize with their pain: The Good Samaritan had so much empathy for others, even strangers, that he had the ability to take in the wounded man’s pain. We are called to love people and to show genuine compassion. It will not always be convenient or comfortable, and we may not be immediately willing and eager. But, compassion means putting other’s needs before our own. As we become more aware of and encounter hurting people in the world, take on the challenge of demonstrating authentic compassion; we need to act skillfully and intentionally to help alleviate the pain and suffering of others. The Good Samaritan not only felt the injured man’s pain but he wanted to fix, solve, rescue – anything to help that pain go away.
- Seize the moment to help: The Good Samaritan teaches us we must seize the moment. Don’t wait, don’t delay, and don’t procrastinate. Do what you can at that moment. Love is not so much something you feel as it is something you do. The Samaritan took action. He stooped down and got on the injured man’s level. He didn’t act superior. He used what he had: wine to disinfect and oil to soothe the wounds. He used his own clothes to bandage the guy’s wounds. He served. He did the best he could with what he had. To seize the moment, you must be willing to take a risk, though. You must be willing to be interrupted. To be a servant you must move against your fears. Imagine the fears the Samaritan may have faced: “What if the robbers are still in the area? What if this is all a trap? What if he rejects my help? What if I can’t really help him?” It takes courage to get beyond our fears and make a difference in the life of somebody who is hurting.
- Be willing to give whatever it takes: Love can cost us in time and in money. Demonstrating mercy begins with seeing the need, sympathizing with others’ pain, and taking action. The Good Samaritan modeled all of that behavior when he reached out to care for the injured man. But there’s a critical fourth step to showing mercy that he also demonstrated. You have to spend whatever it takes. There’s always a cost to kindness and a sacrifice in service. Showing mercy usually requires a sacrifice of time, energy, and money. For example, the Samaritan took the injured man to a hotel. He likely had to walk a great distance, because he put the man on his donkey. He took care of him through the night, he provided for his needs, and then he even paid the bill — all at his own personal expense. And what did he have to gain from his service? Nothing. He just did it out of love. And that’s the kind of service and ministry God wants from us.
- Is loving others loving what God loves practically? Why or why not?
- When you think about who might be in your “inner circle”, or classed as “strangers” or “enemies,” which group do you have most trouble loving?
- Why are we compelled to love our neighbors? What does “as yourself” actually mean? How difficult is this standard?
- What is the simplest way to define who is your neighbor? Is this different to what you might have imagined a week ago?
- Why do you think we often come up with ways of limiting Jesus’ command to love our neighbors?
- What are some truths we need to be reminded of in order to love others?
- What resources (money, gifting’s, time, etc.) do you have? And how are you using them to love God and love others?
- What would it look like to order our love for God above all else? How does loving God first change how you would love yourself? How does loving yourself change how you would love your neighbor? How can we help each other in this?
- What has God revealed to you in this week’s message? What are you going to do about it? Do you need any accountability from the group?
Take one thing home with you:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
Without love, we are nothing.
If the Trinity were a set of magnets, love would be the everlasting, unbreakable magnetic power holding them together. Without that everlasting, unbreakable, magnetic love, everything falls apart. Without it, churches splinter, families disintegrate, and communities devolve into endless cycles of pain and distrust.
Why? Because we have no power on our own to hold things together. Separate from God’s divine, magnetic love, nothing holds together. But, as we experience God’s magnetic love, we too become magnetized and able to draw others in by the love flowing through us. And thus, we can love our neighbors.