Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
A. We have been looking at what the Bible refers to as the Great Commandment, which is for us, important preliminary vision passage because it synthesizes so much of the Scripture into two VERY straightforward commands.
B. (It is quite important for us to understand that when the NT authors declare God’s commands for us to be holy and to love our neighbor, etc. These commands are not there to show our ability, but to reveal our inability – and to remind us of our continual dependence on the grace of God to do in us and through us what we cannot do on our own.)
C. Matthew 22:33-40 (NAS): “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Notice the order – and notice that Jesus was asked to answer with one commandment, but He gave them two…)
D. We have multiplied this passage into two messages…
- Last week: “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 foremost commandment.” (Click here to read that post.)
- Review of last week: How do we love God?
- Come alive to God.
- Find your true joy and delight in the message of the Gospel – and the Person of Jesus Christ.
- Come to grips with the idolatry that grips ALL of our lives.
(i) Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God; it is setting our heart and affections on something, or someone other than God.
(ii) This cannot be remedied by repenting that you have an idol – or by engaging willpower to try and live differently.
(iii) If we uproot our idols (through repentance) but fail to plant the love of God (or, delight in God) in its place, the idol will grow back – like mowing a weed. Repentance and rejoicing must go together.
E. This week: (v. 39)“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And here’s the questions we’re asking as we unpack these verses…
- What is God’s heart/vision for Southside Bible Fellowship?
- And for you?
A. The life-changing context of this commandment:
‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
- The overwhelming commandment to “neighbor love.” Who is my neighbor? This passage retold in Luke 10 – and is followed by Jesus unpacking the Good Samaritan and Mary and Martha.
- John Piper: This is a staggering commandment. If this is what it means, then something unbelievably powerful and reconstructing will have to happen in our souls. It seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety, health, success, and happiness I now feel for that other person as though s/he were me.
B. Loving God is invisible. It is an internal passion of the soul. But it comes to expression when we love others. (Similar to James 2:18: “I will show you my faith by my works.”)
- Idolatry and pride are at the root of our sinfulness. Pride is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God.
- Pride is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people.
C. So, Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we get there from here? Four points (adapted from John Piper):
1. Understand that our self-love is a creation of God.
- Jesus says in effect: I start with your inborn, deep, defining human trait—your love for yourself. It’s a given. Jesus is saying, I don’t command it — I assume it.
- We all have a powerful instinct of self-preservation and self-fulfillment. We all want to be happy, to live and love with satisfaction, we want enough food, we want enough clothes, we want a place to live, we want protection from violence, we want meaningful or important work, we want sincere and meaningful friendships, and we want our lives to count! All this is self-love.
- Self-love is the deep longing to diminish pain and to increase joy. That’s what Jesus starts with when he says, “as yourself.”
- This is common to all people. We don’t have to learn it, it comes with our humanity. Our Father created it. These longings are natural…
2. Make your self-seeking the measure of your self-giving.
- When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the word “as” is very radical: That’s a BIG word: It means: If you are energetic in pursing your own happiness, be AS energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative in pursuing your own happiness, be AS creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are persevering in pursuing your own happiness, be AS persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor.
- In other words, Jesus is not just saying: seek for your neighbor the same things you seek for yourself, but also seek them in the same way—with the same zeal, energy, creativity, and perseverance. The same life and death commitment when you are in danger. Make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving.
- Here’s where this gets difficult: We feel that if we take Jesus seriously, we will not just have to love others “as we love ourselves,” but we will have to love others “instead of loving ourselves.”
- See the handout: “Developing Practical Skills to Love Well”… (This handout should be in the foyer at SBF.)
3. It’s the first commandment that makes the second doable.
- This is why the first commandment is the first commandment.
- If we try to accomplish the 2nd Commandment without FULLY engaging the 1st it will become the suicide of our own happiness.
- The 1st commandment is the basis of the 2nd commandment. The 2nd commandment is a visible expression of the 1st commandment.
4. Make God the focus of your self-seeking.
- Take all your self-love—all your longing for joy, hope, love, security, fulfillment, and significance—take all that, and take it to God, until He satisfies your heart, soul, and mind.
- What you will find is that this is not a canceling out of self-love. This is a fulfillment and transformation of self-love. Self-love is the desire for life and satisfaction rather than frustration and death.
- God says, “Come to me, and I will give you fullness of joy. I will satisfy your heart, soul, and mind with My glory. This is the first and great commandment…
- And with that great discovery—that God is the never-ending fountain of our joy—the way we love others will be forever changed.
- Our quest for joy and happiness becomes a life-long quest for God. And He can be be found [only] in the Person Jesus Christ. (I wish “all paths” led to God, but they do not…)
A. As we bring this to a close, we can say that our ultimate GOAL is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength – and the FRUIT is that we will splash His love onto people.
B. God’s word for us this morning is that we embrace these commandments with tremendous focus and authenticity during this season of learning to express the redemptive love of God in and through SBF.
C. Let these verses deeply touch and challenge your soul – and remake your priorities.
D. Get alone with God and deal with Him about these things. Let’s not assume that we fully know what love is – or that love has the proper centrality in our lives.
E. God is saying: All of Scripture, all God’s plans for history, hang on these two great purposes: that 1) he be loved with all our heart, and 2) that we love each other as we love ourselves.
F. A closing verse: Gal 6:10 – “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”