Love Thy Neighbor…. This is sometimes very difficult to do, however the words are used and referenced many times throughout the Bible and are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago. In this entry, let’s take a closer look at how Jesus teaches us to treat one another.
I know, we all have busy lives and our bad days. Good things happen all of the time, but sometimes it is so hard to see those things when we are focused solely on the negative things with our work, family, church, and personal lives. Tragic things happen, but through the tragedy, we have an opportunity to grow stronger in our faith as well as our love for Jesus and one another. Sometimes a tragedy happens and the overwhelming love of a church, community, or even a nation can be surreal.
Loving thy neighbor could be something as simple as offering to take a shopping cart from an elderly person in order to help them out. It could also mean swallowing your pride and forgiving a relative, co-worker, or even a church member for wronging you in some way. Sometimes people do things without thinking or caring about how others are affected and others just flat out take things the wrong way. I don’t think any of us can deny we feel such emotions from time to time. It is simply human nature to be upset and I am sure some are quite justified in their feelings, but let us take a look at The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 18:21-35 and try to focus on what Jesus is telling us to do. Truly think about comparing it to your life and what resides in your heart at this very moment.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21) Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
22) Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
23) That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
24) When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
25) Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
26) At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
27) Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
28) When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
29) Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30) But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
31) Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
32) His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
33) Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’
34) Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
35) So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
Now close your eyes and imagine being there as this were being explained to you as if you were Peter. It is very powerful and illustrates how we must truly forgive each other regardless of whether we are right or wrong. Not simply put on a show or an illusion to cover up our feelings. There is an old saying which I use all of the time; two wrongs don’t make a right and how true it is.
Jesus tells us what the greatest commandment is in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 22:34-40, but there is also something else in verse 39 we should pay special attention to.
The Greatest Commandment
34) When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35) and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,
36) “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37) He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38) This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39) The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40) The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Are you starting to see a recurring theme here? The theme is LOVE! Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul tells us below from 1st CORINTHIANS 13:4-13;
4) Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated,
5) it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
6) it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8) Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
9) For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11) When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
12) At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
13) So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The last few words sum it up nicely; the greatest of these is love.
These are only but a few passages throughout the Bible where love is emphasized. However, one has to look no further than The Sermon on the Mount in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 5:1-12. If you had read my beatitudes post a while back, you can clearly see that Jesus is commanding each of us to be compassionate, show forgiveness, and love one another. Let’s quickly take another look.
The Sermon on the Mount
1) When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
2) He began to teach them, saying:
3) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4) Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5) Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
6) Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
7) Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8) Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10) Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11) Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I believe that all of these are said out of pure love. Love for your neighbor, love for your faith, love for the poor and the meek, love for the mercy and compassion of others, love in your soul and love in your heart. How could anyone argue with something as powerful as true love?
So let us examine ourselves and see just how deep our love is for one another. Maybe perform a random act of kindness for someone or perhaps put aside your differences with a friend, family member, co-worker, or even that random person you don’t really know, but you judged base off their appearance. I am far from perfect, but I try very hard each and every day to be the bigger person and do the right thing regardless of how bad it may seem. Believe me, I know it can be very difficult to love thy neighbor sometimes, but your salvation depends upon it.