Love Your Neighbour As Yourself
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Matthew 22:34 - 40; Mark 12:30 - 31; Luke 10:27
Sunday 14th December 2014
As we round up the series, 'Walking In Love' today, let's begin with a brief recap of how far we've come. We began the series with the message, 'Lord, I Love You'. Secondly, we looked at a message titled 'Lord I Love the Brethren'. Last week, we delved deeper with a message titled 'Loving Yourself in a Godly Manner'. Let's wrap up this series with the today's message, titled 'Love Your Neighbour as Yourself'.
Right from the onset, it is important to qualify this command. We are called to love our neighbours, as we love ourselves. And as such, we cannot do any less than this. From our foundation scriptures, it is clear without any equivocation that Jesus made this command very clear. Here is Matthew 22:37-40: 'Jesus said to him, '"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." This same words are repeated in Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27. Apostle Paul picks up on the same theme, while admonishing the churches in Galatia and Rome. Here is Galatians 5:14; 'For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (See also Romans 13:8-10).
Even though we dealt with loving ourselves in a godly manner last week, which is a good starting point, it is obvious from the scriptures we've read today that we cannot camp at that point for too long. God desires that we move from just loving ourselves to loving other people as we love ourselves. There is more to life than just loving yourself. The love of God that we've received in Christ, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is not intended to end with us. Instead, the love of God must travel from the Father, through Jesus to you and to the rest of the world. This command confirms that we were not created to live an isolated, self-focused life, otherwise we would have missed the point. During this Christmas season, this message cannot be more relevant and timely.
We've all been created to make a difference and an impact in this world. Jesus made it categorically clear that we are 'the light of the world' (Matthew 5:15). Light was invented to shine, make visible those things that are hidden and make a difference. Hence you are not ordinary. You are significant and a change agent. A call to love your neighbour is a call to reach out and make a change. Sadly, over the years the church has ignored this message and focused on advertising events. Having been studying this trend for a while, I have realized that events do not change the world. Jesus gave the solution to changing the world, and this is still what will work. Our understanding of growth in the church has now been reduced to inviting other church members at another assembly along to our events and services. However, until we expand God's kingdom and draw people who have not understood the gospel to Jesus, our churches will not experience growth. Hence we cannot ignore this call: 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. If we totally obey this simple command, the world will be drawn to the saving power of Christ.
We must remember that it is in God's presence that we (and the world) are transformed. Hence, as channels of God's love, we must be careful not to become insular and insensitive to our neighbours. I believe that as a church, our God-ordained assignment during this season is to embrace this command and live it out.
Here is a profound truth: At the end of loving yourself are people waiting eagerly to receive your love. It is the cry of the world, and as the church of Jesus we must be sensitive to this cry. Loving yourself is a launching pad to reaching your neighbour. As you appreciate and receive God's unconditional love for you, it then becomes easier for you to love the world. Hence, the love for your neighbour must flow from God's love for you – from God, through the cross to you and to your neighbour and the world. In this season of Christmas, think of someone who may need your love and go ahead to express Christ love for them. This also includes sharing the gospel with our neighbours; it must be done with God's love and compassion in our hearts.
So let's ask this pertinent question. Who is my neighbour? The dictionary defines the word 'neighbour' as 'people living near one another'. Jesus' thinking was however a little more radical than this, a good reason the Pharisees and Sadducees were often upset with him, because He never conformed to their norms. The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 redefined 'neighbours' for us: 'And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, 'and 'your neighbour as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Jesus' definition of a neighbour is simple but profound: 'Anyone you come in contact with is a neighbour'. Anyone in this world, regardless of race, culture, religion and background is your neighbour.
Just like the wounded man in the Good Samaritan story, ours is a world full of people who are hurting from various wounds. And in order to obey Christ's command we need to be on the lookout for them, as God brings them to within our proximity. We must be deliberate and intentional in ensuring that our lives do not just revolve around a certain circle of close friends and relatives. Isn't this what Jesus was pointing at when he referred to the priest and the Levite in this story? These two temple leaders were too focused on heading towards their temple duties that they became oblivious to the needs on the way. Besides, the Samaritan who stopped to save this man's life could also easily have ignored this wounded man, more so because Jews and Samaritans had very little in common. Thank God that grace did not leave this man where he was. Conversely, grace did not leave us where we were as well. This story epitomizes the danger of religion – in which you do things halfheartedly, and in the process becoming insensitive to God's leading and direction. Religion from this story, drew a conclusion that these temple officials had 'little time to waste' attending to a wounded traveler. It drew a conclusion that the traveler was not within the temple officials' circle of influence and hence it was alright to leave the situation unattended to. Haven't we drawn such conclusion ourselves, explaining away that as an usher or chorister, we cannot afford to wait to attend to the needs of a drunkard or drug addict? As custodians of God's love, we have a responsibility to pass this love to the world, otherwise we deprive the world of that love. Social media or any other forms of advertising will not suffice – only God's love will do.
The story goes further in drawing our attention to the compassion of the Samaritan. As Christians, this is where we must always live – our hearts must be full of compassion towards those who are wounded in the world. Jesus command to love our neighbours as mentioned earlier, qualified how to love – as ourselves. This is the little extra that we must ask for the grace to comply with a little bit more. Here are some examples: As you long to eat when you are hungry, so learn to feed your neighbour when hungry. What about buying the same type of clothes for your neighbour, or comfortable accommodation? As you secure your life against violence and calamity, so the same must be on your mind for your neighbours. As you value and celebrate yourself, to that same degree must you value your neighbours. The list is endless – What about friendship, living a life of significance, good grades at school? Love your neighbour as you love yourself. Make the measure of your self-seeking the measure of your self-giving.
Here is the rider that we need to be aware of: it is so easy to become consumed with this command that you could easily swing into law mode. Principles and strategies in reaching your neighborhood do have their limitations, and could be unsustainable. God's love within your heart is all you need to fulfil this command. Adverts and billboards that are not transferable to Agape ultimately become meaningless. Events, as good as they are, enrich Christians better than non-Christians, and as such we must be careful not to place too much emphasis on this in reaching our world for Christ. Christian organizations and churches have over the years realized this fact, and it must have dawned on us now that we must change our strategy, if we do not want to continue enduring the frustrations of seeing little results for all the efforts that go into various publicity campaigns and events. Our Christmas Hamper Campaign is a good example, 14 years on and still going strong. As good as this campaign has been, we have not yet seen a commensurate harvest for these efforts. Hence, the simple answer to this dilemma is this: Love your neighbour and your world as you love yourself.
Grace is the answer to this call. You need to recognise what grace has done for you. If not for grace, we would not have been found by God. We were as despicable as those non-believing friends of ours until grace changed our lives. Hence, we must begin to see them through the eyes of God and from the perspective of the cross, nothing short of unconditional love. Why don't you focus on just one person that you would love to see come to Christ in the next one year, praying and showing God's love to them? And watch how God will change them from the inside out. I John 3:18 says: 'My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth'.
Here are some practical ways in which you could love your neighbour:
(1) The Good Samaritan saw the state of the wounded man: He saw and perceived that the man was wounded, and he did something about it. Do you know it's not an accident that God has placed you in the neighbourhood where you live and the church where you worship? When you give towards mission, let it given out of a heart of compassion. We must be positioned in such a way to see what is going on around us.
(2) The Good Samaritan had compassion: Many times the miracles and healings of Jesus ministry were characterized by compassion, and as Christians we must constantly ask God for the heart of compassion for our neighbours. God's love and power flows out of compassion. The difference between religion and grace is compassion. Our hearts must be broken by the things that break God's heart.
(3) The Good Samaritan reached out to the wounded man: The Samaritan went towards and helped this Jewish man, and not vice versa. We also must reach out to our neighbours and to the world. He bandaged his wounds, and poured out oil and wine – He disinfected and soothed the pain. Here is where we should live as well.
(4) The Good Samaritan provided comfort: He did not leave him on the street, but was kind enough to provide accommodation for him. We must also be kind to point people in the direction of hope and help.
(5) The Good Samaritan cared for the wounded man.
(6) The Good Samaritan spent money on the wounded man: He was not selfish, but gave of his finances to aid and restore this wounded Jew. He went as further to say, 'I will give more, if necessary'. He was cognizant of the fact that God provided for him, and it was part of his stewardship to help others as well, to become who they've been created to be.
(7) The Good Samaritan followed up the wounded man: Again, he took down his address so that he could follow up with a visit, to pay up on any outstanding balance.
What our world needs today is unconditional, agape love. When there is love in our communities, crime rates will drop and disappear, family units will become stronger, health will improve, peace will reign. We are being called to love our neighbours through the eyes of grace. Are you willing to begin doing this from today?
Now Apply the Word HERE
Download the PDF of this message HERE
Weekly Uplift Archives HERE