Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who is my Neighbor?

That is the question, isn't it? There is no question at all about the meaning of "love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength." But then there is that "love your neighbor as yourself" line that gives us trouble. It begs the question "Who is my neighbor?"

Many Christians attempt to limit the meaning of "neighbor" to mean only other Christians. Now it is true that we are supposed to love our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Matthew Henry reminds us that the Holy Spirit in us calls out to the Holy Spirit who indwells our brothers and sisters and since God's love for himself is the greatest love of all, the Spirit in us causes us to feel genuine love for those who are also indwelt by the same Spirit.

But according to Strong's concordance, Christ has not given us this option. Not really. According to Strong, Christ intends for this word "neighbor" to mean (to the Christian) any person with whom we are acquainted or any person with whom we might come into contact with. In other words, our neighbor is anyone we know or anyone we come to know. Pretty much any person you have contact with.

Jesus told us that it is easy to do nice things for people who do nice things for us. He said even sinners do the same. But it is harder to do nice things for people who treat us badly. That is the Christian thing to do. Likewise, it is easy to "love" or at least have a genuine fondness for, those who are close to us. It is harder to love those who are unlovable to us yet who the Lord brings into our lives. But that is the Christian thing we are called to do.

The point I want to make with this post is this ... we are most comfortable loving people we are comfortable with. In that, we work hard to shrink the circle of who is our neighbor. We try to make it so that less and less people are our neighbor, so there are less people we have to deal with in order to be obedient to Jesus. But this is a great error. Instead of shrinking our circle, we should be trying to enlarge it as much as we can. We should be liberal, yes, very liberal, in the exercise of our love given to our fellow human beings.

Our neighbor is not a small few whom we have to deal with. It is everybody who crosses our path, no matter how briefly. Our neighbor, frankly, is everyone we meet.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jeffrey said...

Thanks. I appreciate this post.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Baptist Girl said...

John,
Great reminder.....

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
How do we show those around us the love of God if we do not show we care about their souls? The toughest thing to do sometimes is to show love to those that depsise us and what we represent, but we can when we follow in His steps.

Cristina

12:58 PM  

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