Love thy Neighbor
Love thy neighbor. It sounds so nice and simple, doesn’t it? Yet, I don’t know what that looks like? What does it mean in action not just words? Some people are not very easy for me to love. And I am not naturally that outgoing person that can comfortable approach people. To use a term that my daughter uses, I am awkward- I feel uncomfortable and am no good at pushing into my “neighbors” life! Which is what it feels like when I think about what I see as “loving my neighbor”.
How we Love
I recently did a Bible study called Recovery Redemption by Matt Chandler. I highly recommend you can find a copy on You Tube, it is a bit different from the Bible study still very good. Anyway, he said that God delights in us, in the same way we delight in our children. That really stuck with me and got me thinking about how we love, and how God loves. For the record, I don’t think we will be able to completely understand God’s love for us this side of heaven, we are however given glimpses occasionally that help us along the way.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” Ephesians 2:4-5 HCSB
A Child’s Love
As a child, and pre-motherhood adult, I had a strong belief that I loved my mother more than she loved me. Don’t laugh, as ridiculous as this sounds to a parent, I was not alone. My son, who is now 23, tells me, “I love you more” he has done this sense about 12 years old. I get it, I understand it, so, I just tell him, “When you have a child then we can talk” and, then I tell him, “I love you most”. You see, I remember feeling as he does. Also, I know that at his age he believes, even puts faith in his feelings. It takes some hard lessons before we truly understand that our “feelings” are not reality. And that they often are no more than big liars. I don’t push too hard, some lessons we must learn for ourselves.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child…” Proverbs 22:15
A Parents Love
You see, I also distinctly remember coming to the realization of just how wrong I was. It was shortly after my son was born, the thought struck me much like a slap across the face, “this is how my mom loves me, I don’t love her more, I never have.” All those years I was convinced that I loved her more, oh how foolish I was. A lot changed with this bit if new knowledge. I looked at my mom differently, and I think I gained a better understanding of her. I may not have verbalized these thoughts to my mom until many years later. Yet I know that there was nothing she could have said to make me believe any differently, I had to go through it, to learn it on my own.
God’s Great Love
I believe that I, knowing that I am child of God, often do a similar thing. I focus on how much I love Him, and forget how much He loves me. For now, I only have a sample of His love, not because He currently only loves me a little, rather because my understanding of His love is limited
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” 1 John 3:1a
Love of the Father
He calls Himself Father, so this is a good analogy that can help us understand His love. If you are a parent, this means more to you simply because you understand that a parent doesn’t (or can’t) stay mad at their child. They can drive you nuts one day, push ever button (they are so intuitive) and tomorrow morning you don’t even remember it. It’s a new day and a parent’s love stands strong and has forgiven and forgotten yesterday’s mess. I have told my kids, “there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do that would weaken my love you. However, if you break the law I will turn you in and come visit you in jail, if that is where you land” Ha! Ha! Funny, and so true, I want what is best for my kids, however sometimes that is not what they deserve. A parent’s job is to raise them up to be God fearing, law abiding, good, loving, and kind people. Our job as a parent is not to coddle them, we can’t protect them from everything. We work to prepare them for anything. They need to understand consequences. Many times, I forget that God is doing the same in me. Usually it just is more of an internal work than external. His love though never changes, in Psalms a repeating theme is “His mercies are new each morning” The word “mercies” here can be translated as love. So, I know that His love is never ending, never fades, is always as strong as it was the first time I felt it, deep and strong within my heart. At times my attention fades, and I feel like God is far, then I realize it is not God that is drifting, it is me. His great love endures all.
“Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.” Psalms 40:11
Love of the Son
When we look at the love Jesus has for us, the evidence is overwhelming. The whole Bible speaks of Jesus and His great love for us, beginning in Genesis we start to see glimpses of our redeemer and His love. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s great love for us.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Jesus made the way, so that we could have eternal life through Him.
We are not loved because we are “good” or “deserving” we are loved because God is good, His Son died for us because He loves us, and He returned to the Father so that He could send us a Comforter, The Holy Spirit.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26
Love of the Holy Spirit
I’ll tell you what, The Holy Spirit must love me a whole lot, as His patience far exceeds mine. I know that I am often blind, I have walked around with blinders on for days, weeks, even years. All the while The Holy Spirit was gently nudging me all the way through. Yet, He never losses His patience, He knows who I am, how I am wired, and what makes me tick. He never grows angry, or pushes harder than is necessary. He loves me through it all, and is continually working the sanctification process in me.
I pray daily that I am open and always hear and listen to the Holy Spirit!
“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Loving Your Neighbor
Now, I ask myself, how does all this play out in my life and my call to love my neighbor? God is so good. I started writing this as I was traveling to see family. On my trip home it hit me. I am sitting in a packed airplane waiting for takeoff and I look around at all the different people sitting in this sardine can of a plane. God knows each one by name. He knows the number of the hairs on each head. God knows them inside and out, just as I know He knows me. He is working in each individual life, just as personally and lovingly as He works in my life. God loves each and every person who ever has or ever will be “formed in a mother’s womb”. God is love and I don’t think we can truly understand just what that statement means. I feel God’s love, I see God’s love when I see Him work in my life and the lives of those around me. When I think of how much love- to love us ALL in this amazingly personal way. I believe God’s love will never fail, never end, and I believe that we are vessels of His love. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit works through us, He fills us to overflowing and God’s love is manifested in our love for those God loves.
My heart and soul is so full and amazed by the love He has for each of us. And I know that my call is to love my neighbor as God, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost loves them. My love is puny in comparison and offers little help. God’s love on the other hand works miracles. And I know that God’s love can be seen in me as the Holy Spirit works through me. So, I simply need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Here is a living example: My sister works as a dietitian and chef for homes of Autistic children and adults. They have multiply dietary restrictions. Anyway, she does a lot of shopping and there was a new checker at one of the stores that she shops regularly. The checker asked her what she did, and my sister explained. The checkers response was that she wished she had a job that was important like that. My sister’s interpretation to me was that she immediately said, “Oh, sweaty no don’t ever say that. You are important. What you do is important. You need to see how what you do helps everyone that comes into here. Believe that you are important.” What my sister did was pour out some love on this girl who was feeling less than. She encouraged her. I would bet that most of us have similar stories. Yet we don’t see these small encounters for what they are. They are divine appointment of God. It is the leading of the Holy Spirit that guides you to make a difference in another person’s life. Showing how God’s love flows out of us and onto others. This is how we love our neighbor. It is not as hard as I was making it. God just uses us in so many small ways. We are one piece of a puzzle, that God is working in each piece at all times. He works to bring us together and say just the right words all the time. Isn’t our God AWESOME!
“For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” Luke 12:12
“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:” 1 Thessalonians
So, what I have learned is that I don’t have to do it. The Holy Spirit works it all out. All I need to do is to be open to His guidance, at all times. And the love of God will naturally pour out of me onto the neighbors that need it, just when they need it.