The Good Neighbor
This morning we are continuing our study of the Gospel of Mark.
If you are new to our church, it would be important for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”. What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking a book of the Bible and then studying it from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand what it means in our lives today.
With that said, we are currently working our way through the Gospel of Mark. A gospel written primarily to tell us who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what it means for you and I to follow him.
Today as we come back to the gospel, we are picking back up in a conversation between Jesus and one of the religious leaders of his day. A religious leader known as a Scribe.
You may recall, the Scribes were the scriptural theologians of Jesus’s day. In other words, they were the interpreters of scripture. And as we learned a couple of weeks ago, one of the Scribes had taken a special interest in Jesus.
This is worth noting because in general the Scribes were not fans of Jesus. For the most part they were opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
But this Scribe is different. This Scribe is impressed with Jesus. This Scribe has a genuine interest in what Jesus has to say. So, in a spirit of genuineness, he asks Jesus a question. And as we learned a couple of weeks ago, it’s a question that we still ask today.
And while the Scribes in general didn’t like Jesus, this
The question is, “Jesus, out of all the commands of scripture, which one is the most important?” In other words, “Jesus, if I really want to please God, I really want to be faithful to Him, what is the most important thing I can do?”
So, why this question? Well, what we learned is the Scribes had determined there were 613 commandments in scripture that needed to be kept in order to truly please God. So, what this Scribe wants to know is, out of those 613, Jesus, which one is the most important?
And the truth is, we ask the same question today. Like the Scribe, we want to know, “What does it take to please God?”
What do I ultimately need to do.
What law or rule do I need to keep
What ritual do I need to perform
What level of commitment do I need to display
What class do I need to take
What baptism needs to be performed
What do I need to do in order to please God?
And what’s interesting, is not only does Jesus give the Scribe the answer, but in doing so, Jesus gives an unexpected answer. Because Jesus doesn’t necessarily point to one of the 613 commandments.
He doesn’t say, “Above all, make sure you keep commandment #70”, which states, “Men must not wear women’s clothing.” And in our day it would be stated as, “Men must not wear skinny jeans.”
He doesn’t say, “Above all, make sure you keep commandment #20”, which states, “One must never take revenge.”
No, he doesn’t say keep one of these specific commandments. Instead, he points to a passage of scripture in . A passage known as the Shema.
So, what’s the Shema? The Shema was a ritualistic prayer in Judaism that was to to be recited when a person started their day and was to be recited again before they ended their day. Of the 613 it was command #76.
In many ways, it’s similar to what the Lord’s Prayer has become for some churches and denominations.
For example, some churches begin or end their service with the Lord’s Prayer. Same thing here. The Shema was a prayer that had become part of the Jewish liturgy for worship. Something they recited at the beginning and end of their day.
So,Jesus points to the Shema, and Jesus says, “Listen, you want to know what the most important commandment is? The most important commandment is this…”, and he quotes the first part of the Shema in where the prophet Moses writes:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (ESV)
In other words, “The most important commandment isn’t to recite the Shema twice a day, the most important commandment is to actually do it. To to love the Lord God with your entire being.”
So, how do we do that? As we learned a couple weeks ago, we accomplish that by putting our faith in Jesus and giving our life to him. It’s what Paul is referring to in when he writes:
So, why is th
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (ESV)
Paul says, “As a Christ follower, your life is to now be fully devoted to living your life for Jesus.”
Because it’s through faith in Jesus that God gives you a new heart. ‘
It’s through your faith in Jesus that God writes his law on your heart.
And it’s through your faith in Jesus that you are born again and literally become a different person.
And now the question isn’t, “What rules do I need to keep?” Now the question is, “What kind of a Christ follower are you becoming? What is the Holy Spirit doing in you? How is He changing you? What is He asking you to surrender today? What is He showing you that needs to change in your life today? How are you becoming more like Jesus today?”
What does that look like?
Because here’s what happens.
The bottom line is this. Jesus says, “You want to please God? Then give him all of you and surrender everything to Him.”
That’s what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
Now, Jesus could have stopped there. After all, the Scribe only asked for one commandment. But as we’re going to see today, Jesus has more to say. And once again, Jesus says something unexpected. Listen to what Mark records as we come back to this conversation today between Jesus and the Scribe. Picking back up in verse 31, Jesus says:
“The second is this...” (ESV)
Now, we’re going to stop right there for a second, because I want you to notice something. What I want you to notice is that Jesus is now answering a question he wasn’t asked.
I mean think about it. The Scribe didn’t ask, “Jesus, what are the two greatest commandments.” Plural. He asked, “Jesus, what is the greatest commandment?” singular.
But here in this moment Jesus offers up an answer to an un-asked question. Jesus goes on to tell the Scribe there is another commandment he needs to be aware of. Another commandment that is just as important.
So, what is it? Well, before we get to it, and so we can better understand what Jesus is about to say, I’d like to begin by building some framework for this question. And to do that I want to pose a question to you. A question that may seem a little strange at first, but a question that I believe we can all relate with. And the question is this:
Question - Have you ever loved yourself selfishly? (repeat 2x)
In other words, have you ever put your needs first, or cared more about your needs than the needs of someone else?
Let me give you a few simple examples of what I’m talking about:
Have you ever had somebody call and ask you to help them move. That’s always fun, right? But to help them you’d have to give up your only day off in the week. So in a spirit of self focus you say, “Sorry, I can’t help you. I already have plans.”
Have you ever been in line at Casey’s and only one register was open? And then finally a second register opens up, and as the person, whose been waiting longer than you, starts towards the second register, you cut them off at the pass. Because after all, you’re time is more valuable than their time.
How about this. Maybe you were at the Pizza Hut buffet, and there were only three pieces of pepperoni left. End of the world kind of stuff, right? So, instead of taking 1-2 slices of pepperoni, you took all three, because what if they don’t bring another pepperoni pizza out. I mean you have to eat too.
One more. Have you ever run into a friend, and they ask you how you are doing. And you’re glad they cared enough to ask because you have a lot to get off your chest. So, you give them the run down of your life, but then you leave the conversation not even thinking to ask them how they are doing. But at least you were able to unload.
I think if we’re all honest we've all been there. We’ve all loved ourselves selfishly. Where our time, our needs, our resources, or our desires took precedence over others. Where we cared more about what we needed or what benefited us rather than the needs or benefit of others.
Now, let me ask yo this, “Have you ever wondered why we are like that? Why we always tend to put ourselves first? Why we love ourselves selfishly?”
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, I don’t always do that? There are times I let the person whose been waiting in line go first. There are times I leave that extra piece of pizza. Pastor, sometimes I do ask how they are doing as well.”
Well, that’s great, but again, I think if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that’s not always easy to do. That even when we do work to put others first, it’s hard. It’s hard to say, “Go ahead of me, I’ll keep waiting.” It’s hard to say, “Go ahead, take the last piece of pizza, I’ll wait until they bring another one out.” It’s hard to ask, “How are you doing?”, when your life is in shambles. The truth is, it’s hard to not love yourself selfishly. It’s hard to put the needs of others first.
So, why is that? Why is it so hard? Could it be it’s hard because putting others first is not our natural inclination.
And I think if we were all honest, we’d have to admit that kind of behavior is our nature inclination. That in our sin nature, in our carnal self, we are wired to love ourselves selfishly. That we are naturally inclined to put our needs before the needs of others.
Could it be that we are sinfully wired to love ourselves selfishly.
Could it be we are naturally inclined to put our needs before the needs of others.
I think it might be. And the proof of that can be seen in almost any relationship.
Maybe that’s why your marriage is struggling. Because you’re more concerned about what you need rather than what your spouse needs.
Maybe that’s why you struggle to keep friends. Because your more concerned about what the friendship can give you than what you can give the friendship. For you it’s a one sided friendship.
I hate to say it, but it happens in the church every week, as most people are more concerned with their own needs than the needs of others. To be honest, that’s why it’s so hard to get volunteers sometimes. Because to serve means to put others ahead of ourselves. To make Sunday not just about you, but about someone else.
The truth is, almost every relationship struggle can be traced to a person or persons choosing to love themselves selfishly. Choosing to put their own needs above the needs of others.
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, where are you going with this?”
The reason I ask you to consider this question, is because what Jesus is about to say strikes against our selfish nature. In fact, what Jesus is about to say goes against our natural sinful inclination to love ourselves selfishly.
So, with that as our framework, let’s find out what Jesus says is the second greatest commandment, and what it has to do with loving ourselves selfishly. Continuing in verse 31 Mark writes:
“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (ESV)
Let’s find out. Continuing in verse 31, Mark writes:
“...You shall love your neighbor as yourself...” (ESV)
Jesus says, “Not only are you to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. But secondly, you are to love your neighbor as yourself.”
What an interesting statement. So, what does that mean?
I can think of three questions we probably need to ask to discover what Jesus is saying.
First, it would be good to know who Jesus is referring to when he says ‘neighbor’. Is he talking about the guy across the street? Is he talking about the family who lives next door. Who is Jesus referring to when he says ‘neighbor’?
Second, it would be good to understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. What does that look like? How does that play out?
And finally, it would be good to know why this is so important? Why this is the second greatest commandment? Why we should be concerned about loving our neighbor.
So, here’s what I want to do this morning. In order to help us to understand what Jesus is saying, I want to unpack this statement and answer these three questions.
So, to get us going in the right direction, let’s start with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Who is Jesus referring to when he says, “Love your neighbor?”
In order to get that answer we actually have to go outside of Mark’s Gospel to the Gospel of Luke where Luke gives us a little more detail into this encounter.
Because according to Luke’s account of this conversation, when Jesus makes this statement, the Scribe wants to know as well what “neighbor” Jesus is referring to. Listen to how Luke recounts it:
“But he (the Scribe), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (ESV)
Luke says, “The Scribe wants Jesus to be more clear. He wants to know who his neighbor is.”
So, in order to answer him, in , Jesus tells the Scribe a story. Now we’re not going to take the time to read the story in its entirety, but it’s a story referred to as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”.
The story goes like this. A Jewish man gets up one morning and goes on a journey. And while on his way, he is confronted by bandits who rob him, beat him, and leave him for dead. And as he laying on the side of the road bleeding out, three different individuals pass by.
The first is a Jewish priest. And upon seeing the man beaten and laying on the side of the road, he crosses over to the opposite side and passes on by. In other words, he turns a blind eye to the beaten man.
The second is a Levite. A Levite would be like a modern day altar boy. Somebody who assists the priest in the temple. And like the priest, he turns a blind eye to the beaten man as well.
But then a third individual comes along. A person known as a Samaritan. Someone who is not a Jew. Someone who is from an ethnic people group that the Jews despised. In our day, the Samaritan would be like a Muslim. Somebody the Priest and Levite would have nothing to do with. And seeing the Jewish man beaten on the side of the road, he has compassion for him, tends to his wounds, and takes him somewhere where he can be cared for.
So, in a nutshell that’s the story. And then to conclude the story, Jesus asks the Scribe this question. He asks him this in :
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (ESV).
In other words, out of the three individuals who passed by, which one was a good neighbor to this man? And the Scribe answers, “The one who showed him mercy.” (ESV) Which would have been the Samaritan.
So, what was the point of Jesus telling this story. The point is this. In the Jewish mindset, a neighbor was always another Jew. Somebody like them. And sometimes only certain Jews. In other words, even if you were a Jew, if you didn’t measure up socially or religiously, you might not be as valuable.
So, in this story, there are three Jews. The guy who goes on the journey and is robbed, the priest, and the Levite. But then there is a fourth individual, who is not a Jew, but a Samaritan. An ethnic class of people the Jews wanted nothing to do with. They are the farthest thing from a neighbor as you can get.
But, in the story:
It’s the Samaritan that shows compassion.
It’s the Samaritan who isn’t worried about ethnic background.
It’s the Samaritan that isn’t worried about social status.
It’s the Samaritan that isn’t worried about religious association.
It’s the Samaritan who helps regardless of who is in need.
So, what’s the point of the story? The point is to show that it’s not about who your neighbor is, but what kind of a neighbor are you. In other words, what Jesus is saying to the Scribe is, “Why don’t you stop worrying about who your neighbor is, and instead start being a good neighbor. Quit worrying about ethnic background. Quit worrying about social status. Quit worrying about religious heritage. And start loving people like the Samaritan did.”
To be honest, this would have been insulting to
To be honest, it would have been a shocking and insulting story for this Scribe. To think that a dirty Samaritan was more compassionate than a Jewish priest or Levite.
So, the question then is, “What’s this saying to us when it comes to who our neighbor is?” I would put it like this. When it comes to “loving our neighbor as our yourself”:
Your neighbor is anybody God puts in your path regardless of their background, social status, or religious affiliation.
In the most basic terms, here’s what that means:
Your neighbor is the person who needs help moving, even if they don’t live next to you, or go to your church.
Your neighbor is the person waiting in line with you at Casey’s, even if you don’t know their name.
Your neighbor is the person at the Pizza Hut Buffett, who likes pepperoni pizza just as much as you do.
Your neighbor is anybody that God puts in your path on any given day.
Your neighbor is your fellow man.
Now, the truth is, we don’t often think of people in that way. Like the Jews of Jesus’s day, we tend to classify people and categorize our relationships. And much of what we are willing or unwilling to do for someone is based on our classifications.
For example, if somebody from the church called you and asked you to help them move next Saturday, while it wouldn’t be your favorite thing to do on a Saturday, you’d be more inclined to help them than somebody who doesn’t go to our church. That’s true, right?
Why is that? Probably because they go to our church. Probably because they are a fellow MCF attendee. Somebody you’ve gotten to know. Somebody who sits by you in church. Somebody you would consider a ‘neighbor’.
The same would be true at the Pizza Hut Buffet. Because the truth is, if you and I met at the buffet line, and there was only one piece of pepperoni pizza between us, more than likely, because we go to church together, because I’m your pastor, we would each say to each other, “You take it. No you take it. No, I want you to have it Pastor. No, I’ll wait until they bring another pizza out, you take it.” And then after batting back and forth over who should take it, my son would walk up and say, “Fine, I’ll take it.”
But if you met a stranger at the buffet line, somebody who goes to another church, or maybe no church, and the only thing between you and that person was a pepperoni pizza, we’ve got ourselves a a showdown. We’ve got a gunfight as you each circle that piece of pizza waiting to see who’s going to draw first.
But what Jesus is saying is, “Listen, your neighbor isn’t just somebody your familiar with. It’s not just the person you go to church with. It’s not somebody who believes like you do. Your neighbor is anybody that comes into your path.”
So, Jesus says, “That being the case. Quit worrying about who your neighbor is and start focusing on being a good neighbor.” Be that person who helps the stranger move. Be that person who gives up the piece of pizza. Be that person that says, “No, you first, I’ll wait.”
Now, again, that’s not always easy to do, even for the person we might consider a neighbor. I mean we might say, “Yeah, I’ll help you move” or “Go ahead and take the pizza”, but deep down it kind of bothers us. It bothers us that we have to give up our time on Saturday. Don’t they know I’m busy?
It irritates us that we have to wait for another pizza to come out. Yeah we smile, and say, “You first.” But on the inside we’re irritated.
So, why is that? It’s like I said before. Because deep down our natural sinful desire is to love ourselves selfishly.
Deep down we are more committed to taken care of our own needs first, rather than the needs of others.
This leads us to our second question. If were supposed to love anybody and everybody that comes into our path, how do we do that? I would put it like this.
2. Loving your neighbor as yourself requires you to love others selflessly.
Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now, I want to take a moment and give this some thought. Let’s think for a moment what Jesus is saying. Jesus says, “Loving your neighbor requires you to love them with the same kind of love you love yourself with.”
Think of it like this. In a way, this is you taking your selfish sin nature, and turning it on its head. Instead of loving yourself selfishly you now love them selflessly. In this moment, you transfer your selfish love to them.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (ESV)
Paul says we now owe this to them. It’s our obligation to love them selflessly.
So, the question then is, “How do you do that? How do you love somebody selflessly? How do you transfer your selfish love of yourself to them?
Short answer, “By yourself, you can’t.” The truth is, you by yourself are not capable of loving somebody like you love yourself.
And that’s why this is the second commandment, and not the first. Because the only way you can love somebody like you love yourself, is if your committed to loving God first. Let me put it like this:
The only way you can love others like you love yourself, is if the old you dies. And the only way that can happen, is through a relationship with Jesus. In other words:
The only way you can love others like you love yourself, is if God’s Spirit is now living in you.
The only way you can love others like you love yourself, is if the old you has passed away.
How do I know this? I know it because that’s what Jesus implies. Listen to what he says:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (ESV)
Couple things I want you to notice about what Jesus says.
First, Jesus says, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” So, here’s the first thing I want you to see., “When he says ‘these’, he is referring to the two commandments. Love God and Love your neighbor.
Second, I want you to notice how he frames ‘these’ two commandments. He says, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Do you see what Jesus did? Jesus frames these two commandments as one. He says, “There is no other ‘commandment’ (singular) than these.”
In other words, what Jesus is saying is these two commandments are one. These two commandments go hand in hand. They are married together.
So, in order to love your neighbor as yourself, it has to be attached to your love for God. It has to be attached to the work that God is doing in you through faith in Jesus. Without that it will be impossible for you to love your neighbor as yourself. Without that, you will continue to love yourself selfishly versus loving your neighbor selflessly.
So, let me ask you this, when it comes to your relationship with Jesus, is it producing a love for others?”
Are you finding it easier to give your time to others?
Are you finding it easier to show compassion to others?
Are you finding it easier to say, “You go first?”
Are you finding it easier to put the needs of others before your own needs?
Or, do you find yourself just as selfish as ever? Do you find yourself concerned more about your own needs than the needs of others?
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, why are you making this such a big deal? Why should I be so concerned with this?
This leads us to our final question. So, why is it so important we get this? I would put it like this:
3. If we’re not loving our neighbors as ourselves, we can’t say we love God.
I’m going to read a passage from . It’s a little lengthy, but I want you to listen closely to what the Apostle John has to say about this. John writes, beginning in :
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.” (ESV)
Let’s stop here for a moment so we can summarize what John has said. Basically what John is saying is, “When it comes to our relationship with God, love is the key factor. That it was through love that God sent his son to die for us. And that if we put our faith in Jesus, that because of God’s love, we can have confidence to know that someday we will be with him. We don’t have to fear death.”
And that’s good news for you and I. That’s good news for those that say they love Jesus. For those of us who have put our faith in the love he extended to us. We don’t have to fear death.
But John doesn’t stop there. John has more to say about this. Because John is now going to address an issue he is seeing in the church. Listen to what he says as he continues in the next verse:
“20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (ESV)
John says, “Listen, if your’e going to go around saying you love Jesus. If you’re going to claim you are a Christian. If you’re going to claim the love of Jesus is in you. But you have no concern for others. You have no compassion for others. You’re only concerned about your needs versus the needs of others, then something is wrong.”
Because John says, “You can’t say you love God, whom you haven’t seen, when you refuse to love the person standing in front of you. The person God has put in your path.”
And just to make sure we know what he is referencing, John clarifies where he is getting this from. In the next verse he says, “21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (ESV)
John says, “Let me tell you where I’m getting this from. I’m getting this straight from Jesus’s mouth. I’m getting this from where Jesus says, “Whoever loves God must also love his neighbor.”
John says, “This is a commandment that Jesus has given us. It’s the evidence of God’s love in us.”
And here’s the problem for you and I. If that evidence isn’t there, than we have deceived ourselves. Because John says the person who does that, is a liar.
“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” (ESV)
John says, “You can’t go around saying you know and love Jesus if you don’t love others.” In other words, to say you love Jesus, but show no love to your neighbor, means you’ve deceived yourself.
This is serious stuff church. The fact of the matter is, your love for Jesus should create in you a love for others. A desire to serve others. A desire to selflessly give yourselves to others.
And please hear me, I’m not saying you can’t ever think of yourself. I’m not saying you can’t take care of yourself. I’m not saying you have to lay your life out like a blanket for others to walk on.
What I am saying though is your life should now be characterized by a love for others. Listen to how the Apostle Paul explains it in :
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV)
Paul says, “Listen, if the Spirit of God is really at work in you. Then display what that looks like. Show the same love God extended to you, to others. Don’t live life selfishly. Put others before yourself. Don’t just make life about what you want and need, but consider the needs of others. Be like Jesus, who gave up his throne, emptied himself, and became a servant for all.”
Here’s my concern church. My concern is there are a lot of people who say they love and follow Jesus, but there’s no love coming out of their lives. No concern for others. No desire to put others first. Instead, always putting themselves first. Always focused on what’s best for them.
In a recent survey, it was discovered that 68% of Americans believe that Americans are selfish. That when push comes to shove, the typical American will always do what’s best for them personally. And the truth is, that thinking has crept into the church, as even church attendees struggle to love one another. Struggle to put others first. Struggle to make church more than just about them.
So, what do we do? How do we combat the selfish nature?
Well, as I said earlier it begins with a relationship with Jesus. It begins as you whole heartedly give your entire being to him. Like we talked about a couple weeks ago, it begins as you strive to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind as you give your life to Jesus. Only then can you begin to love others as you love yourself. As the old you dies and the new is born.
Second, it continues as you practice your love for others. You see, we don’t usually think of it like this, but when you put your faith in Jesus, you stand at a crossroads. And the question is, “Will you follow the new way, or stay on the path of the old”. Because it’s a choice. Paul puts it like this:
“...assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” -24 (ESV)
Paul says, “Listen, you have to make a decision. Assuming you’ve put your faith in Jesus, are you going to actually put on the new you, or keep wearing the old you? Are you going to let God’s Spirit change you or keep living according to the old you?”
You see, the problem for a lot of Christians, is they say the prayer, but they don’t live the prayer. They say Jesus is Lord, but there’s no evidence in their life. There’s no love. Instead, they keep living as they’ve always lived. Selfish and self consumed.
And what I’m suggesting to you this morning, is that loving others begins with a decision. A decision to step out of yourself and give yourself fully to Jesus and selflessly to others.
So, a good question might be, “Where do we start with that? Do we start the next time we are at Casey’s? Do we start next time we are at the Pizza Hut Buffett line? Do we start the next time somebody asks us to help them move? Where do we start?
How about this. How about we start right here, in this room, with the neighbor sitting next to you. In fact, I would say, that’s where it has to start. Because the truth of the matter is, if we can’t love each other, our fellow Christians, people who believe like we do, how could we ever love the guy at Casey’s or the person in the buffet line?
You see, the challenge for some of us, is we that struggle to even love each other. Like the priest and Levite, we see the need of a fellow believer, but we just keep walking by. We ignore it. Why? Typically because we are consumed with our own needs. Our own issues. This is what James was referring to in . Listen to what he says:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (ESV)
Here’s what James is saying, “How can you say your a Christian, but ignore the needs of others?”
And please hear me, I’m not saying that you have to give a handout to everybody that asks. The answer for some isn’t cash, the answer for some is, “Let me help you with a budget” or “Let me help you find a job”.
And hep doesn’t mean give them a check or some cash. Help means showing them compassion. Giving them some of your time.
And even then, it requires you to put the needs of others first. There are times we need to do what we can to help a fellow brother or sister in Christ.
And I would go as far to say this, if we can’t love the people in this room like we love ourselves, we’ll never reach anybody for Jesus. Listen to what the Apostle John says about this:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
John says, “What will lead people to Jesus, what will attract them to Jesus, will be demonstrated through how we treat each other. By our love for one another.”
Why? Because love like that is unique. It’s not common. It’s not common to see a group of people put each other first. To love one another as they love themselves. That’s rare. In our culture, that’s unheard of.
But it’s what people long for. A place where they can love and be loved. A place called the church.
So, it starts with us. It starts with our love for one another.
So, what do we need to do to show that kind of love to one another? I’m glad you asked, because I have some thoughts on that. Some actions for us to take as we close this morning.
First, I would encourage you to start viewing church differently. To not see the church as the place you get filled up, but the place where you fill others. Let me put it like this. To have the mindset that:
Church isn’t just for me, it’s for others as well.
Think of it like this. Instead of coming to church thinking, “What am I going to get today”, come to church thinking, “What can I give today”? To come to church looking for an opportunity to meet the needs of others.
So, how do you do that? Here’s a couple of ideas:
Instead of just finding a seat to sit in, roam the room and introduce yourself to someone. Ask them how their week was. Ask if there is something you can pray for them about. Show an interest in the lives of others.
Instead of just leaving after service, invite somebody to have a cup of coffee or go to lunch. and then maybe even be willing to pay for it. Make an investment in relationship.
Volunteer in a ministry. The truth is, one of the greatest ways to minster to the needs of others on a Sunday morning is through serving. Last week we had 100 kids between the ages of 0-11 downstairs. I want you to think about that. 100 kids who need to know Jesus. 100 kids who need some adults to invest in them. 100 kids who need some adults to put them first by giving up some of their time.
Second, follow up and reach out. Here’s our challenge. It’s easy to come to church, leave church, and not think about it again until next Sunday.
What I would encourage you to do is look for opportunities to minister to each other through the week. For instance, maybe on Sunday morning somebody shared with you they have a job interview that week. So follow up. Check in with them. Or maybe you hear that somebody in our church body experienced a loss or is having a tough week. So reach out. Let them know you are praying. Ask if there is anything you can do for them.
You see, it’s not hard. It’s just you loving others like you love yourself. It’s you extending the love of Christ to others.
Finally, I would encourage you to be a good neighbor in our community. The truth is, there are a lot of people who need Jesus in Marshall County and our surrounding region.
And while a lot of them know a lot about religion, most have never been introduced to a relationship with Jesus. Most of them know thing of the love that has been extended to us through faith in Jesus.
But then they meet you, a confessing Christian. A person that goes to that church out by Taco Bell. And the question will be, “What will they learn about Jesus’s love in that moment?” The question will be, “What kind of a neighbor will you be?” Will you be like the Priest and Levite who walked by and snubbed their nose. Or will you be like the Samaritan, who recognized an opportunity to meet a need. An opportunity to show a love and concern nobody else would give.
In that moment, will you be the kind of neighbor that leads people to Jesus, or pushes them further away. In that moment will you demonstrate the love that Jesus has given you as you love your neighbor as yourself?