Monday, June 29, 2020

Loving our Neighbor and our Enemies

I found this wonderful post, “Ten Commandments of Human Relations” as a way to begin our conversation for our information and guidance:

  1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting. Smile at people. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile.
  2. Call people by name. Music to anyone's ears is the sound of his/her own name.
  3. Be friendly and helpful.
  4. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is genuinely a pleasure, and if it isn't, learn to make it so.
  5. Be genuinely interested in people. You can like almost everybody if you try.
  6. Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
  7. Be considerate with the feelings of others. There are usually three sides to a controversy: yours, the other fellow's, and the right one.
  8. Be alert to serve. What counts most in life is what we do for others.
  9. No copyright infringement intended
  10. Add to this a good sense of humour, a big dose of patience, and a dash of humility, and you will be rewarded manifold through life. Adapted from the Bible Tract Bulletin.

Jesus stated a very clear commandment in Mark 12:31 about loving others, specifically for those we consider as neighbours: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (NIV). And if you want to understand who our neighbour is, read the Parable of the Samaritan where Jesus provided a picture of the most unlikely person to assist a person in need during that time. After reading it, I hope and pray it would change the way you approach this matter. 

Jesus stated an unequivocal truth for our modern-day understanding about fulfilling God’s Law daily, i.e., “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Somebody said a wonderful summary of what’s expected of us:

The reality is that I can only ever love and accept others to the degree that I have learned to love and accept myself. What so many of us need from God and loving friends is help to love and accept ourselves in the same way that God loves and accepts us -- totally and unconditionally.

We need to remember that before God asked us to love our neighbour and others, He manifested His love to us through the death of Jesus Christ. While we were considered an enemy of God, He loved us despite our sinfulness. Because of this simple reason, it’s our turn to employ the same mindset of loving others and our neighbours. 

How do we begin? Let’s start in becoming mindful of others above our own interests: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). In dealing with those we consider as our enemies: If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22). Why? Jesus provided something for us to consider: 

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47)

Simply means, loving others we like is easier, but it takes a toll on us when our enemies are concerned. In this way, applying Jesus’ words becomes a reality and its application makes or breaks us as believers of Jesus. The only thing holding us back in loving anyone, especially our enemies, is pride, plain and simple. To bring us out of pride, remember how Jesus, at the cross of Calvary, prayed for His enemies and forgave them as well. And no matter what we think or say about it, it’s a choice we must make daily. 

Holly Mthethwa[1] provided some practical ways to love our neighbour as yourself. 

  1. I will love my neighbours, whoever they are, by truly seeing them. I will look past the obvious, the outer shell, and I will look into their eyes, their hearts, and their circumstances. 
  2. I’ll ask for forgiveness for the strongholds within my own heart that keep me from sympathizing with or loving another. If I need to ask for forgiveness from my neighbour, I’ll humble myself and apologize. 
  3. I’ll love my neighbours by praying for them—even if it’s through gritted teeth at first. I will pray for my neighbours, especially the ones I least want to pray for.
  4. I will walk alongside my neighbours. I will rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn. I’ll bear the burden of the pain and anguish, because I know that Christ is the ultimate burden-bearer, and I’ll shout for joy in tandem with their cries of thanksgiving and praise.
  5. I’ll allow my neighbours to challenge my heart without taking offense or becoming bitter. I’ll accept constructive criticism as the pathway that draws me closer to Christ. 

In the end, we’ll face God and He’ll be asking us how we did in this area. What would you answer then?

Let’s talk again!