The Bible commands us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, so what does that look like?
Jesus tells us the very two greatest commands in all the Bible and they are found in Matthew 22:37-40 where Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” If you do not love God, then you will have difficulty loving your neighbor. The Old Testament had laws preventing someone from taking revenge or bearing a grudge against their neighbor. The law stated, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Lev 19:18). If someone wrongs us, we must remember to “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom 12:19), so first of all, we are to love God and then, “love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).
Romans 13:8-10 shows us what loving our neighbors looks like, and it includes the fact that we “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Just as Jesus said, all the law and the prophets pointed to loving God and loving our neighbor. This sums up the law as loving your neighbor “does no wrong to a neighbor.” Loving God and loving our neighbor fulfills what the law required. We could put it this way: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). It is sin to hate or despise our neighbor, as Solomon wrote, “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor” (Prov 14:21). Despising people is sin, so “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me” (Rom 15:2-3). We have a direct, imperative command from Jesus “that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). That kind of love is a time-consuming, self-sacrifice. James wrote that “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well” (James 2:8).
It’s easy to love those who love us and to love God, but what about loving those who hate us? I think we’ll need God’s help with this, but even so, Jesus still tells us to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Sadly, our neighbors can sometimes become our enemies, but we are still told, “Do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end” (Prov 25:8-10). God loved us first…while still wicked, ungodly enemies of His (Rom 5:6-10), so we must love them first…even if they hate us. Just as God didn’t give us what we deserved (His wrath), and gave us what we needed (His grace), so too must we give people what they need, not what we think they deserve. This is how “we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16), and this would mean that we “Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 19:19). Loving our neighbor is commanded, and it doesn’t have a clause that says, “Only if.” Jesus didn’t seem to leave any exceptions for loving others (Luke 6:27-28).
Just as we have read, and Paul again explains, “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). As a matter of fact, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov 12:26). Love does no harm to a neighbor. Love believes the best in people (1 Cor 13:7). Love shows who Jesus’ disciples really are (John 13:34-35). If you enjoyed this article about loving our neighbors, why not share them with your neighbor right now, and in the meantime, let us live lives of obedience toward the command to love God and to love our neighbors, and fulfill what Jesus commanded, and that is, you are to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). It will be by our love for one another that “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.