In a world where so much division and tension exists, we’d all be better off if we learned to love others-even if it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable. In this 4 day plan, we’ll discuss who our neighbors are and how to love them.
Who’s My Neighbor?
Love your neighbor. Whether you’re familiar with the Bible or not, you’ve probably heard this phrase. This command was first written in Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament, and comes right after we read that we shouldn’t seek revenge or hold a grudge against people.
When we think about our neighbors, in the literal sense, we think it’s someone who actually lives next door to us. In order to know what neighbor truly means, we have to go back to the original Hebrew text of Leviticus 19:18. The word for neighbor is plesion, and it means friend or any other person. Basically, we’re supposed to love everyone!
The argumentative family member
The friendly man at the grocery store
The frustrating lady down the street
The sweet child in another country
The person who voted differently than you
That’s quite a lofty command, isn’t it? But, it’s essential—so much so that Jesus made it the second most important command!
“Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?” Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39 NCV
It’s quite a challenging command, and even feels a bit unattainable. It might appear more realistic if the verse said, “Hey, love your neighbor when they’re being nice to you and when everything is going great. But if they upset you or do something to annoy you, then you don’t have to love them. You get a pass.” But Jesus was pretty clear: we should love our neighbors all the time.
So, how do we actually love our neighbors? We love God first and ourselves second. Loving God first means that we receive His love for us, because He loved us first. God’s love for us is unconditional. It’s hard to fathom that kind of love and even harder to display. That’s probably why we often sink to the level of loving other people only when it feels convenient. Loving ourselves isn’t some type of self-absorbed love. Loving ourselves means we see our value because Jesus did—enough to die on the cross for us! Learning to love ourselves because of the value we have in Jesus will help us love our neighbors.
When we love our neighbors, we are being the hands and feet of Jesus. The next three days of this Plan will help us learn how to love our neighbors well.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.Leviticus 19:18 NIV
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.1 John 4:7-19 NIV
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us.