Who Must We Love?
When Jesus affirmed the command to love your neighbor as yourself, he specified that “your neighbor” includes even Samaritans. That may not mean much to us, but according to the Jewish mindset of that day, Samaritans were the lowest of the low.
They were of an ethnicity mixed with the heathen. They followed a different cannon of Scripture. They combined idolatry with the worship of Yahweh. And they were frequently composed of criminals and refugees.
Following Jesus means that we must truly love even the most wicked sinners imaginable.
But what does it really mean to love? There are a lot of wrong ideas out there.
Love is often portrayed as an emotion. We tend to think of it as a feeling of good will toward other people.
Another common thought is the idea that love means acceptance, tolerance, or avoiding offence.
According to this view, loving everyone means that we just accept them as they are. We dare not bring up any sins in their lives, because that would be unloving. We certainly dare not tell them that they need a savior, because that could offend those who believe otherwise.
Jesus Defines Love
Thankfully, we are not left to guess about what it means to love one another.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV)
Our love is to be modeled after Jesus’ love. We are to love one another in the same way that he loved us.
True love is the deliberate decision to put the needs of others before your own, and it results in sacrificial action.
If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. (1 John 3:17–18, HCSB)
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15–16, ESV)
It All Comes Down to This
For almost every action we take, we have a choice. We can walk by the flesh, or we can walk by the Spirit.
If we walk by the flesh, we will act selfishly—seeking our own good.
If we walk by the Spirit, we will act in love—seeking the good of others.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16, NASB)
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