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Our Mission - Love one another

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There are many things that “Love your Neighbour” is not!

Loving your neighbour is obviously not harming them.
You do not love your neighbour if you steal from them.
You do not love your neighbour if you assault them.
You do not love your neighbour if you gossip about them
You do not love your neighbour if you know something which would help them but decide not to share that knowledge.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:39
Matthew 22:39 NLT
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
When Jesus spoke these words there was a clear context, a clear meaning, a meaning which is abandoned if we just end up seeing these words to “Love your neighbour as yourself” as nothing more that the golden rule of “do good to others as you want them to do good to you.”
To reduce the second half of the Great Commandment to a golden rule is heresy.
The golden rule of Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12 was given in the context of how to live in the midst of enemies.
The Golden rule is an indicator, the Great Commandment is the substance.
The Golden rule is a rule of thumb, the Great Commandment is absolute truth
A rule of thumb is a rough approximation of the fact.
The phrase first appeared in English literature in 1685 in a collection of sermons by the Scottish preacher James Durham who said, “Many profest Christians are like to foolish builders, who build by guess, and by rule of thumb (as we use to speak), and not by Square and Rule".
Historically, the width of the thumb, or "thumb's breadth", was used as the equivalent of an inch in the cloth trade; similar expressions existed in Latin and French as well.
One theory notes that the inch originated as the distance between the base of the thumbnail and the first joint, another notes the practice of approximating the general direction of the wind by wetting the thumb then raising it in the air and another theory notes that English royal banquet plate setters used the distance of their thumbs to equally space each plate from the table edge.
So a rule of thumb is a general guideline, rather than a strict rule; an approximate measure or means of reckoning based on experience or common knowledge.
The Great Commandment is a commandment. It is not a general guide of what to do, it is not an approximation of how you should act, it is an absolute.
Matthew 22:37-40
Matthew 22:37–40 NLT
Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
The Great Commandment was given in the context of obeying the law.
So if you are going to obey a law you need to understand what the law is about and what it actually tells you to do.
Perhaps it is best to start with what it is not.
Loving your neighbour is not what some call situational ethics
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary v. The Greatest Commandment (22:34–40)

Jesus’ words here are not, then, a recommendation of what has come to be known as ‘situationalism’, the view that there are no principles for Christian conduct other than to do the most loving thing in the given situation.

The idea that the highest good is to do what is the most loving thing in the circumstances is an insult to the intent of Jesus’ words.
The Great Commandment is the basis upon which all the other commandments rest.
Matthew 22:37-40 is very clear; it is the foundation, the beginning point not the end point.
If we only think that loving your neighbour as yourself means that you don’t hurt others and you look to do good where you can then you have missed the point.
There is a popular expression in Australia, the idea of “paying it forward”; It is a bit like Karma, do good to others and it will come back to you.
But all of this falls short of what the biblical authors intended to convey when they used the term neighbour.

The concept of Neighbour in the Bible

There is a consistent concern for anyone who could be considered a neighbour in the Old Testament.
In Leviticus 19:18 the law is summed up and clear as day is the command to love your neighbour as yourself.
Leviticus 19:18 NLT
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
This phrase is repeated eight times in the New Testament and the whole idea is very different from other ancient law codes.
The law codes from the pagan nations of the time spoke of conducting yourself in a way which did not violate another’s property or possessions.
This is the sort of thing that Deuteronomy 19:14 speaks of Rules about not treating a neighbour in such a way that you gained an advantage over them.
Deuteronomy 19:14 NLT
“When you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession, you must never steal anyone’s land by moving the boundary markers your ancestors set up to mark their property.
Everyone had to have these sort of rules to keep the peace.
But the commands of Scripture go beyond this.
The people of Israel were given explicit instructions on how they should treat their neighbours and even who their neighbours were.
The idea being that any person living in their land peacefully was a neighbour.
Not just the people of their tribe within Israel, not just the nation of Israel, but everyone living peacefully in the land was to be cared for.
Proverbs 3:29 ESV
Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
When dealing with a neighbour who had fallen on hard times and had asked for a loan every effort was to be made to not humiliate them in their time of need. Deuteronomy 24:10 makes it plain that there is to be trust, there is no need to go into their house and take the security that they have offered. That would embarrass them and make them a spectacle in front of the community.
Deuteronomy 24:10 NLT
“If you lend anything to your neighbor, do not enter his house to pick up the item he is giving as security.
It wasn’t just about issues of property and finance. It was also about speech and even thoughts.
All of these were to be positive, with genuine concern for the other.
Proverbs 14:21 ESV
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
Psalm 101:5 NLT
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.
While the Old Testament teaching clearly included those who lived peacefully in the land as neighbours in practice the idea of neighbour became limited to those like us; our own people, our own village.
By the time of the New Testament the concept of neighbour had narrowed to the idea of someone who is liked.
That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:43
Matthew 5:43 ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
When we love our neighbour and hate our enemy the decision becomes very arbitrary. We reduce people to the status of an object.
We choose whom to love, whom to hate, who to ignore, despise or even manipulate.
Neighbour becomes whoever and whatever I want them to be, for as long as I want them to be.
This stands in complete contrast to everything that Jesus taught and is best illustrated in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
My neighbour isn’t just the person in need. When Jesus told this story he told it so that both the Priest and the Levite walked past the man in need.
They knew the commands, yet they used religious tradition as an excuse to ignored him.
But the Samaritan, a despised outsider had compassion.
He understood that he had a responsibility to act, to care for the other, the one who was in need.
He saw in the injured man himself, a fellow human being affected by a broken world, a man just like him.
A man made in the image of God, a man with needs, feelings, hopes, desires, rights and at that moment in desperate need of a neighbour.
It is … the Creator’s intention that human relations are to be marked by mutually supportive fellowship, not by self-interest punctuated with charitable acts. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Neighbor)
So much of what we see today falls very short of the idea of loving your neighbour as yourself.
Yes there are lots of good things being done, but there is to be something more when it comes to the people of God.
When we fall into the trap of doing good to feel good about ourselves then we have missed the point.
Sadly that is the heart string that a lot of charity advertising pushes.
Perhaps you have seen the most recent one about supporting Koalas.
Make a donation and you will get a special framed picture, an info pack, a regular newsletter and a fluffy stuffed Koala.
Which is probably fully synthetic, which means it is made from oil, probably in China and consumed huge amounts of energy to produce and ship half way round the world. Really environmentally friendly.
Fortunately we are not yet at that stage when it comes to some children’s charities. But I hope you get my point.
Doing good stuff for others isn’t about feeling good about yourself.
Loving your neighbour is about the other, the one who is not you.
Loving your neighbour is because that is what God has commanded we do.
1 John 4:7–12 NLT
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
Jesus intended that love was to be the witness of the church.
When people think of the church they should be thinking of all the love they have received in the name of Christ.
When people look at the church they should see love.
They should experience love.
They should understand what it means for a group of people to have love for each other.
John 13:34–35 NLT
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I think we have a long way to go yet!

How do we love one another? - In caring for the sick

Matthew 25:36 NLT
I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

How do we love one another? - In meeting material needs

Matthew 25:35 NLT
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.

How do we love one another? - In meeting spiritual needs; Sharing the Gospel, prayer, walking the journey of life.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
1 Corinthians 9:19–23 NLT
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
To love our neighbour as our self means to do whatever is necessary for them to experience the ultimate love of eternity in the presence of Christ.
If we do not do all we can to see them saved from a Christ-less eternity do we really love them?
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