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To me, being a Christian is the pursuit of becoming like Christ. That is an extremely high standard. I don't know whether it is possible to achieve it. But, I can't let that deter me from the pursuit.
Matthew relates the story of a Pharisee that was also a lawyer, that asked Jesus a question to tempt him.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." - Matthew 22:36-40
I could focus on "love the Lord thy God". That is a major concept in itself. But, today I am thinking about "love thy neighbour as thyself". Think about that for a minute. Roll it around in your mind. How do I love my neighbour? What actions do I take in order to show love for my neighbor? After all, saying you love your neighbor without doing anything about it is worthless. Who is my neighbor? I suppose, everyone is my neighbor.
In typical self-centered fashion, we like to quibble. We can say, well, I really don't love myself very much, so that let's me off the hook. That guys not really my neighbour. And so on; it's easy to make excuses.
Yes, that is a really high standard to aim for. But wait, there's more. Read where Jesus says:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. - John 13:34-35
That verse destroys any quibbling that I have done. Love one another; no question about who is my neighbour. As I have loved you; that takes loving myself out of the equation and makes Christ's love the standard.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJ
True love requires balance in my life. It allows no place for prejudice or discrimination. There is no place for war in love. At the same time, love is not a push-over. A loving parent disciplines their child because they understand the consequences of giving a child everything they want. Love doesn't allow me to be so self-centered. Love seeks the equilibrium between freedom and responsibility. I still need a deeper understanding of the nature of love.
LORD, in a world that is full of hate, angry words, strife and fear, help me to love those around me the way that you do. Help me love my spouse, my family, and my friends.
I cannot do this alone. Give me love for all those around me and for even my enemy. Help me to show love to each individual I pass. I'm afraid I can't do this alone. I need you to fill me with your love, so that when my well runs dry, I find untapped reserves of love. I still have such a long way to go.
If you think the verses above are tough love, check out Matthew 5:43,44 where it tells you to love your enemies. Is love an important concept in your Christian walk? Here are some more verses that repeat and expound on the concept.
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"
"Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
"But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil."
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: ...
I John 4:7,8
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
About Reading the Bible
Whenever you hear about a scripture, it is always good to read it in context. Get the setting of the passage by reading what comes before. Sometimes, it only takes backing up a few verses, but at other times you may want to go back a couple of chapters to pick up the thread of events.
Then read on after the verse, pick up how the passage ends, find out the results or other comments. This helps provide clarity to what you read.
Most scripture quotes are from the "King James Version" of the Bible. If the quote is from a different translation, I try to include a letter code for the version. Here are some you may see.
- KJV - King James Version
- NKJ - New King James Version
- ESV - English Standard Version