“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In order to understand this verse, you need to know what a neighbor is. In another of the Gospels, Jesus is actually asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
It’s pretty simple. The Greek word used in this verse literally means someone who is physically near you. Even in the English word, neighbor, the “nei” part means “near”.
So we’re not talking about the community you live in, even though that could be included. When Jesus talks about neighbors, He’s speaking about anybody you happen to be around during the day. It doesn’t matter whether you know them or not.
Once we know who we’re supposed to show our love to, the next obvious question is; what is love? This word has been so overused in our society, that when we read Scripture many people have no clue what it really means.
The first thing I see is that the Lord commands us to love whoever we find in our vicinity. If it’s a command, then it has nothing to do with our emotions. The Greek word, agape, used in this verse is a choice to love.
Because there is no emotion involved in this love, it’s simply a choice I have to make when I’m near someone. It doesn’t matter whether or not I know them. More importantly, it doesn’t even matter whether I like them or not. The command stands for enemies as well as friends.
Then there are the excuses we like to make for ourselves. I’ve heard people say, “I love everybody.” They say this to justify themselves. Usually, this statement is untrue.
Jesus tells us that we’re to love others in the same way that we love ourselves. How do I love myself? Healthy self-love is an active pursuit to make my life better. This includes my position with my family, my job, my attitudes, my influence, my finances, my spirituality, and so much more.
So when you talk about loving someone else, it’s an action word. It means that you are actively participating in their lives. You want their life to be better because they met you. That’s showing love to your neighbor.
It could be as simple as greeting someone with a smile in the check-out line. It could be giving money to a person in need. There are literally thousands of ways of positively impacting the lives of those around you.
I do realize that this is harder to do when it involves those that we don’t like. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible.
We need to respond to God’s commands as the person in Scripture.
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
We should make it our goal to let our lives show a true love for God and for others around us. That will play a large role in attracting people to the Gospel of Christ.
Question: How has the love of others affected your life?
© 2018 Nick Zaccardi