Drinking Deeply

Friday, January 20, 2006 at 1:05 PM

Love thy neighbor

The third question on the docket is "love."

I asked "What does it mean to love your neighbor?"

I think Eric's response is pretty close to the money. He said "seek what is good for other people."

But unfortunately, many people do not quite have that same impression. Love, to them, is an emotion. Love, to them, is a passion. To love their neighbor means that they "like alot" or "care about."

Now, I'm not saying that love does not include those things. Surly when David writes "Oh how I love your law!" in Psalm 119:97 it is an expression of devotion and passion. But notice this love does not stop there, for he follows it up immediately with "It is my meditation all the day." in that same verse.

Love is not only an emotion, it's also an action. When God commands us to "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength," He's not just saying "feel affectionate towards God." Surely there is a delighting in God, but there is also something that demonstrates that delight is true. That thing is action. This means not offering up our bodies as slaves to sin, this means meditating on whatever is true and noble, the decrees of God.

In Luke 10 we have the parable of the good Samaritan. I want to focus on one thing here.
25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."

29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
v. 29 sets our context. The lawyer had just answered his own question correctly. The thing to do to inherit eternal life is to love the Lord with everything and love our neighbor as ourself. But to the lawyer there still was issues. Much in the same way we try to get out of commands binding upon on consciences by redefining the terms or saying that the context doesn't apply to us, the lawyer is seeking to get out of that command somehow by restricting it. "Who is my neighbor?" he asks.

As a side note, it is necessary to properly determine the context in order to apply some commands. We don't avoid touching a football. Why is that? But at the same time, there is a lot that applies though we don't want it to because we're sinful.

One thing he does have over people like you and I is when we redefine terms, we often don't ask the right people. We do it ourselves, we ask other people that will give us answers we like, and so on.

Our lawyer asks the right person. He asks Jesus. We must do the same thing. "What does the Bible say?" This may mean asking our pastor, checking commentaries, doing in depth Bible studies, and so on.

30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

How does Jesus respond? He tells us a parable. There are a lot of really good insights to this parable, but I want to focus on his answer. What question does he answer? "Who is being a neighbor?" (v. 36) The lawyer expected Jesus to restrict the definition of neighbor but rather Jesus focuses on what? On what "love" is. Love is being a neighbor. How do we do this? We act as "the one who showed him mercy." We love our neighbors not just by feeling sorry for them and praying for them, but we care for them, binding their wounds, feeding them, and clothing them, especially when they are in need.

Just as faith without works is dead, one could make the claim that love without works is dead. (In fact, it would seem that James is addressing that very point!). Love is patient, love is kind... these are all actions, and not emotions. In fact, I think I could make a strong argument that the love expressed in the Bible does not have to include this "emotional" aspect to it, but rather is a policy of action towards someone. But that would probably take far too long, so as now I will simply leave my point as proven that love must include action.

But guess what? Yeah, we need the Gospel. We, on our own, cannot love. We are born sinful from birth, longing for our own desires. We wake up and we are selfish. No baby is born and desires to honor their parents! No, they want milk. At 3AM no less. You, I, all of us.

But there is hope. There is hope, not because we can somehow change ourselves, but because there is a God who can transform us from the inside out. A radical (from the root) transformation. When Jesus tells us "now go and do likewise," all we can do is confess, "God, I can't. I'm selfish. I run away from them, from you. I need help. I need to be raised from the dead" and God has promised that those who call upon Him will be saved. God can and does enable us to act in love. To seek to put others above ourselves, so that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.

So seek God. We can love because He first loved us. If you don't know this love, this saving love that frees us from the sin that dwells within our hearts, you're dead and unable to please God. If you think you do, remind yourself of it daily, for it is only in looking back to the cross are we able to serve God with the Spirit of Him who dwells in us.

One final note, right after the good Samaritan is Martha and Mary. This serves to illustrate one key thing. You see, Martha was trying to be a neighbor to Jesus. She was trying to serve him, to cook and clean for him. But Jesus rebukes her and says one thing is necessary, and that is to sit at his feet and be his disciple. What does this mean for us? It means that theology is primary. It means that our study of God is our greatest act of love for God. Now, this love is not true love without showing fruit in actions, but it is the one thing necessary.

Adrian Warnock has similar thoughts.

Vincent Cheung has an exposition on the one thing needed.

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