Love Your Neighbor
Love Your Neighbor
Last week I talked about the love that God has for all people. We read in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son. That whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” We learned that this gift of sacrificial love often becomes a forsaken gift. We realize what Jesus did at the cross, in dying for our sins, but we don’t make an effort to take advantage of being set right with God. Instead, we turn our backs on Jesus and forsake Him, leaving us without the fellowship of God and marking ourselves for an eternity in Hell.
Now that we have a basic understanding of God’s love towards us lets take this time to focus on our love towards one another. In 1 John we read how we “…perceive…the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Remember that God so loved the world that He gave his son, likewise we are also commanded. Remember the Greek word Agape? This is the transliteration of the words of sacrificial love. God sacrificially loves us according to John 3:16. We are also to love one another to the same extent. Remember, Agape love is not a feeling but an action. It is something that you can see. It is something that you do. God’s love is so great that he gave us his son to pay the penalty for our sins. Can we say that we love one another enough to do the same?
This is real tough love. So often in our lives we are faced with this impossible task of loving one another. In Ephesians 5:25 we read “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” Husbands, what a challenge we have! We need to love our wives as Christ loved the Church! How much did Christ love the Church? He willingly laid down his life for it. He also loved the church so much that he took the time to teach his church, to nurture it, to exhort it promote it and chastise it when needed.
Here is where love becomes the most difficult. For most of us it is easy to love one another until we are wronged against. When we are wronged against, we have the tendency to hold a grudge. Sometimes we allow this grudge to grow inside of us and fester. We then become bitter. We develop attitudes of judgement and we loose all trace of the sacrificial love that we are supposed to have for one another. There is a way out of this diseased state and its name is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is at the cornerstone of our faith. Without forgiveness we could never have access to God. Without forgiveness the burden of all our sins would carry us to an eternal life in hell. You see because of forgiveness our salvation is possible. Our sin is put out of sight and out of mind.
In Luke 17 Jesus says to “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Here we have a basic pattern of forgiveness. We have the right to say something to someone when they wrong us. We rebuke them, but then what do we do when they realize their errors and have a turning of their heart. What do we do when they seek our forgiveness. Here we are commanded to forgive them. It’s more than accepting an apology. Forgiveness is a decision to not dwell on the issue. Forgiveness is a promise not to bring up the incident again and use it as ammo against the other person. It is a vow to keep silent about the incident to other people. And finally it is a pledge to not allow the incident to come between you and the other person. Just as God promised in Psalm 103- As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
And Jeremiah 31 saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Therefore we are bound to do follow his example and do the same.
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us the story of how the kingdom of heaven [is] likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
You see we need to actively forgive. When we pray the Our Father we pray that God may forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgiveness is a give and take. When we don’t forgive we are committing sin because we are going against God’s will. In Matthew 5 Jesus teaches us how to pray, following his outline of a proper prayer he says -For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
What then do we do when someone keeps doing something against us? Matthew 18 also states that Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. We must always forgive the repentant. How many times have you forgiven your brother today?
Tomorrow marks the celebration of yet another year gone by. It is a time when we remember the events of the past year and make plans for the one to come. Often we make plans to loose weight, save money or finish that project which we have put on the back burner at home. I think that this year we should try to do something a little more original. Let’s put the past in the past. Let us stand up as Christ’s Church. Let us go from forgiven to forgiving. Our witness, our testimony to those around us is marked by our behavior. One day, we will all stand before Jesus accountable for our actions. What will our accusations be. Will we be accused of being faithful Christians or will our testimony be less than that. Will we be accused of showing no love to our neighbors, to our brothers? In 1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. How then do we let others know of our love for them. This is a question which I cannot answer for you. You have to look inside and answer this question for yourself