Before I do anything else let me say that I will never be able to adequately express how thankful I am for the family and friends who helped my family to grieve over the past two weeks. On top of all the other acts of service my family arrived home Wednesday night to discover that either a “thread” or a neighbor had graciously raked our yard (I think “thread” since Sunday during the message at Tapestry I mentioned the frustration of raking the yard one day and it being covered again the next day, but our neighbors are just as awesome so I’m not sure). You are all wonderful and I am honored to know you and be loved by you.
Now on to the post.
I adore Coffee with Jesus. I think it is one of the best things on the internet. The artist remains consistent rather than simply picking the conservative or progressive side on a subject. I believe this typically leads to Coffee with Jesus ticking off both sides. The comic strips consistently challenge me.
Anyhow this blog post isn’t about Coffee with Jesus. Instead it is concerning the word “love” and I thought the above comic strip was a good way to start the post.
A couple of weeks ago I saw the comment thread below on a friend’s Facebook page.
The second comment really gets me because … well … to be honest whenever I see a professed Christian saying that they automatically become suspicious when they see someone quoting “love your neighbor as yourself,” I … errr … well … I become suspicious of that professed Christian.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” should be the knee jerk reaction of a follower of Christ to any situation. It should be our first, second, third, and fourth reaction. It should even be behind our behavior when our response isn’t necessarily positive but instead calls for followers of Christ to fight for someone or against something. After all, God’s discipline comes out of love (Revelation 3:19).
Why should it be our knee jerk reaction? Well, because Jesus said it is that important. Remember the context of when Jesus made the statement. He was answering the question of an expert in the law concerning what was the greatest commandment (Luke 22:34-40). Jesus’s answer to what was the greatest commandment was: 1a, love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (and strength in the Gospel According to Mark), and 1b love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus even went so far as to say that 1b was “like” 1a. That’s a strong word. The Greek word used in the verse that we translate as “like” is ὁμοία and can also be translated as “resembles”. When we love our neighbor as ourselves it resembles loving God.
I understand the guy’s fear. I believe it to be an honest comment and I respect that, though it still makes me sad. He says “‘Love’ doesn’t seem to mean what it used to.” I understand his fear, though I also believe that some of the change to our understanding of loving your neighbor is a good thing. That’s a subject for another blog post. You see the Spirit that God fills His people with isn’t a “spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV) but of power, love, and self-discipline. The Spirit pushes us to respond in love not fear. If someone starts defining the concept of “loving your neighbor as yourself” in a manner that isn’t biblical, then we have to reclaim the phrase, rather than becoming suspicious of the phrase and turning our backs on it. The bible shows the word “love” to be closely connected with the word “sacrifice” (John 15:13). Fear leads to us holing up and trying to protect ourselves. Fear leads to us turning our backs on our neighbors. Love does the opposite. Love leads to us sacrificing ourselves like Christ. After all, such behavior resembles loving God and needs to be reclaimed rather than mistrusted.
I hope those of us who claim to be followers of Christ will respond to everything around us by sacrificing as Jesus does, rather than just trying to protect ourselves. So many of you did this for me and my family this past week. You sacrificed your time, energy, and emotional strength for us and thereby loved us. Thank you.