Good Word Jesse Weeks! Loving unconditionally is a great challenge!
What a great message from Johannes on the text of Mark 12:28-34. Linking Jesus’ statement of the greatest of commandments of love of God and love of others to the 1 Corinthians 13 theme of love as indispensable helped us understand that “Love” is the emphasis of the Bible. As Matthew 22:37-40 reiterates “On these two commandments hangs all the Law and the Prophets” meaning that the Law is fulfilled by loving God and our neighbors.
God’s love for us is unconditional as Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He expects our love to be the same, “Unconditional”.
If you’re like me, it’s hard enough loving family and friends unconditionally, much less total strangers and my enemies! How can we possibly love our neighbors as ourselves if they include the unlovable? Let’s first define our neighbors “biblically”. As Luke shares Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus had just told them the parable and asked which of the three was actually the man’s neighbor. The main point is that anyone that needs our help is our neighbor because “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” James 4:17, for “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him” (1 John 3:17)?
But how is it possible to love my neighbors that don’t act right or even persecute me? We are told as long ago as Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” We naturally want to get even, but that will always create two wrongs. Jesus taught His own to “pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Therefore, if we profess to be children of God, we should never take vengeance into our own hands or hold a grudge against our neighbor but leave it to God and instead “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” Romans 12:14, and trust God to avenge anything that anyone does against us. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘it is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Jesus even goes further in Romans 12:20-21 when He says, “On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 15:2 goes much further still and says “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Paul didn’t qualify this by saying that we are to please our neighbors only if they are Christians. We ought to be pleasing our neighbors so that we might be pleasing to God. This type of unconditional love reflects the love of God and can be useful in drawing others to God.
Wow! Now I get it! By prayer and supplication, I can lay all my negative feelings about my neighbors at God’s feet and love them as He prescribes. I am a child of God and I can do that! By doing so I might even positively affect my neighbors and help draw them to God, and, in turn, be pleasing to God. Hallelujah!