I want to start by asking God to help me to check my heart every moment of every day so that I can love like He loves. This isn’t something that we will ever perfect this side of Heaven, but I pray that my words and actions reflect Christ’s love to EVERYONE I meet.
To answer my title question: We should love both our neighbor and our brother. Let me explain why I am separating the two. When Jesus instructed his followers to love their neighbor, He meant that everyone you see is your neighbor, so basically love everyone. However, there are many times when the Bible talks about loving your brother. Those were spoken to the body of Christ exclusively. So, when I say “love your neighbor, I personally am referencing non-believers, and when I say “love your brother” I am referencing the body of Christ. I do believe that when Jesus spoke, “neighbor” included everyone.
Although I know many non-believers, I am selective of who I let get close to me. I want to reach out and share God’s love with everyone, but not everyone is going to make it onto my Facebook friends list. Not everyone is going to be allowed access to my personal daily activities. So, it comes as a surprise to me that when I check my newsfeed right after a big issue hits the media (example: abortion, transgenders in women’s bathrooms, Donald Trump running for the presidency, etc.) that among my brothers and sisters in Christ (because they make up the majority of my FB friends) there is a lot of judging, pointing fingers, and accusations of who’s not being loving to their neighbors.
People love to remind us that Jesus ate with the “sinners”. I’ve been disturbed in my spirit for the last couple of weeks about this which is why I haven’t posted in awhile. I did not know what to say.
While I was pondering this, God dropped a bombshell on my thought train. He said this, “I love the Pharisees too”. You guys, yes, Jesus spent most of His time with “sinners”, but that doesn’t mean that He didn’t love the religious leaders. He said harsh (unloving?) things to them, but He said harsh things to Peter as well. Jesus was being loving when He said those things.
The quote of Jesus that has been playing on repeat in my mind for that last couple of weeks is this, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
I think we miss this one as we try to fit into a culture that preaches tolerance. If one of our brothers or sisters appears to be judging another human being we go right along with the world and tell them to be more loving. We say that that is what Jesus would do. Jesus never condoned anyones sinful lifestyle. Over and over again He touched the untouchable, He healed them, and He told them that their sins were forgiven. Then He told them to “go and sin no more.”
Has anyone ever said to you, “I don’t like Christians, but you aren’t so bad.” And then do you feel pleased that you are reaching a lost person with your love for them even though they are a sinner? Have you ever responded with something similar to this: “Yeah, I know that the church isn’t very loving these days, but that is not really what Jesus is like.” I am not so sure that you have won a follower of Christ or a new buddy. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Pointing fingers and name calling (hypocrite, judgmental, etc.) are not loving, and according to Jesus won’t draw anyone to Him.
Jesus does say to love your neighbor. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that loving the body is more important than loving your neighbor, but He never said that loving them at the expense of loving your brother will draw anyone to Him.
I am not trying to tell you how to love, just who to love. Your neighbor = everyone. Don’t forget your brothers and sisters.
Every track my thought train has taken me on the last two weeks has brought me back to this: Love God above all. 1 John 4:21 says this: And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
My husband and I took a marriage class at our church, and that was a big theme that I saw in the series. In order to love anyone you must love God first and above all. When my heart feels icky and I realize that I am not loving someone with my words, actions or thoughts, I repent and apologize to God for not loving Him. Whether or not I love someone is a fruit of my relationship with God.
There are hateful people in the church, and I don’t always have it all together myself. If you ever are bothered by what someone is saying, please pray and search Scripture before you attack them. Most of you probably do think that you are being loving by confronting a person who appears to be unloving, but make sure you remove the “log” from your own eye first. Make sure you are seeing the situation clearly and are being guided by the Holy Spirit.