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How to Love your Neighbor

suffer, fruit of the spirit, His image, selflessness, fruits of the spirit, self sacrifice, golden rule, believers duty

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Can we love our neighbor if our relationship to our Creator is not solid?  The Creator’s thinking in creating man was that man would be like He is.  “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…” (Gen 1:26)  The important thing about our Creator is how He thinks, which determines what He does.  His appearance doesn’t really tell us very much about Him.  Nevertheless, one must start somewhere:  “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1: 27)    He then explained to man what He expected.  In summary, He expected men to love and respect their creator and their fellow man.  Unfortunately, man ignored the expectation and ultimately was estranged from his creator.


What to do?

The Creator could have destroyed what He made, but He chose not to do that.  He chose to give men time to experience the results of their actions and perhaps return to Him.  He also determined to provide a faithful example of His expectation. 


In the grand scheme of the Creator, error needs to be set right.  If the one who made the error cannot put things back together, he loses his right to continue in the creation.  Since men seem to be strongly prone to error the Creator designed a way to pay for error without necessitating everyone’s death.  The One who actually carried out the Creator’s instructions in creating man, His special Son, would give up His place in the creation, potentially for all men.  Ultimately His Son was in the unique position of being arguably responsible for our error since He was our creator.


Not many of us would die for something we made, but the Son was willing to become our Savior and die for us. 


1Pet 1:18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,   19  but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.


He created us.  He owns us.  We ignored Him.  Although deserving death He has made a way for us to return once we wake up to the error of our ways.  He has placed watchmen and representatives on earth.  Their warning messages are intended to turn us from our self made darkness to His light and understanding.


Acts 26:18  ‘to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’


Specifically, that was Paul’s function.  Of course, we can read much of what Paul taught and learn from it.  Our Savior expects us to change our direction from our own way to His way.  His goal is to make us in His image, not just in appearance, but in thinking.  His ways are much more noble than our own.


Isa 55:7 ‘“Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.  8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”’


One thing about our Creator we probably could not have understood without the example of our Savior is His selflessness.  Certainly He’s on His throne with unlimited resources.  How can we understand He is selfless?  We can’t see the anguish we cause Him when we abuse our fellow man and/or corrupt His creation.  On a minute by minute basis we are denying our Creator the peaceful enjoyment of His creation.  Yet, He waits patiently hoping we will learn the futility of our ways. 


On the other hand, in the example of our Savior, selflessness is readily apparent.  He who made us was willing to empty Himself of His glory, power and place by the Father to become a helpless child, growing up to be rejected by those He created and to be brutally murdered. 


Phil 2:5  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.


Responding to Graciousness

That same mentality is what He wants in us.  Repentance is a turning from seeking our own well being to seeking the well being of others.  We can do this if we have faith that the Savior will make up whatever we may risk.  Faith must be accompanied by action or it becomes evident we really have no faith nor do we believe what He says.


Along with His gracious forgiveness comes significant responsibility.  There is an expectation that those forgiven will turn from their error and be a fitting repository of the Creator’s mentality and spirit.  This was the purpose of Paul’s preaching mentioned in Acts 26 above.  The intention was to turn people from their way of darkness to His noble way of light: from thinking based on self to thinking based on selflessness, like the thinking of our Creator. 


Acts 2:37  ‘Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"  38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "


That doesn’t mean we need to quit our job and go preach on street corners.  What is important is the mind to mind relationship.  His word was reliable.  Our word must be reliable.  He fulfilled the expectation of His Father.  We must fulfill His expectation also.  It does mean that in our daily lives we are not focused on our own well being, but rather the well being of others.  We are alert to our surroundings so we don’t hinder others.  We don’t leave hazards to victimize others.  We pitch in to help when we have opportunity.


John 4:34 ‘Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”’


Our Savior was focused on His mission.  He was not seeking to be entertained by others.  He occasionally got away from the crowds, likely to refresh Himself.  He doesn’t expect us to run ourselves ragged. 


I John 2:6 “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”


He does expect us to properly represent Him.  That means living as He would live.  So we need to show proper regard for the Father and for all our brothers and sisters according to our Savior’s selfless manner. 


Phil 2:1 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.


Believers trust the Savior to make up what they might risk for others in need.  They trust that He is the judge, not other people.  Selfishness is not part of His ways. 


I Pet 4:1  “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered (is suffering, aorist-participle) in the flesh has ceased from sin,  2  that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”


Humans are typically servants of their bodies, the flesh.  The desires of the flesh have tremendous power over our mind.  Anyone with a chemical addiction will understand.  Anyone who gets sleepy behind the wheel of a car will also understand.  However, the desire to please our Creator and Savior can generally tip the balance against the desire of the flesh.  Our Savior emptied Himself and died for us.  Certainly we can give up the temporary gratification of our flesh for others in order to please Him and continue His work. 


Rom 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”


Those who are truly seeking to please their Creator will not be overly interested in all the distractions of society.  Sports events, keeping up with the Jones’s, fashion fads and the latest TV craze are generally not of interest.  Believers are seeking to better understand their Creator and conduct themselves accordingly.  They seek to edify their thinking.  Just like our Savior was focused on pleasing His Father and doing His job, believers are focused on doing what pleases their Savior.


Gal 5:22  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  24  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions (sufferings) and desires (lusts).  25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (as opposed to the flesh) 


We can’t love others if we are focused on loving our self.  We will have no joy if we think we’re losing something important.  We will have no peace if we’re worried about ending up short.  We must see our self in proper perspective relative to our Savior and Creator.  We must trust that They know what’s happening and will support us in our effort to support Them.


It is impossible to fully detail how to love one’s neighbor.  There are an infinite number of possible situations and circumstances that would need to be addressed.  Everyone must make a habit of pondering our Creator’s instruction and translate the principles taught into something applicable in our culture and circumstances.  A sufficient list for one person would leave gaps for someone else.  If we’re well versed in the original instruction and in the habit of using its principles, we will be in a better position to focus on the principles we need at the time we need them.


This study hopes to help you understand how to prepare yourself.  It is incumbent on every believer to properly represent their Creator.  It requires thinking like He thinks.  The thinking controls the doing. 


Continuing His Life:


Php 1:29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”


1Pet 4:19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”


Rom 8:17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  There is a reward.  


Believers suffer because they replace what they would normally like to do with what their Creator wants them to do.  He is not interested in them crawling on their knees to the church door or saying the Lord ’s Prayer hundreds of times.  Believers suffer because when they would like to chase their neighbor’s noisy dog away, they bring it back to him instead.  When they are in a hurry they still wait for a good opening in traffic rather than pulling out and forcing their neighbor on the road to slam on his breaks.  They suffer because they don’t have that second helping of sugar filled desert (or maybe not even the first helping) because they know it is not healthy food.  How well does someone represent their Creator when they’re sick? 


They will go out of their way to help someone who is in need.  Believers exchange their own wellbeing to help their fellow man.  In doing this they support their Savior and Master.  They trust the Master for whom they are working to even the score.  It takes faith and trust to put the self at risk.  Faith and trust humanly speaking is counter-intuitive.


Mat 11:29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." 


Peace will come when we put our confidence and trust in our Savior.  We don’t need to worry about keeping up with the Jones’s.  We don’t seek to impress people.  We seek to please the Master.  We may not reach out at every opportunity, but our Savior will know the heart, because He will see our consistent selfless and supportive action on behalf of others.


General guidelines


The parable of the unjust steward encourages us to put the wealth of this world in proper perspective.  Ultimately all wealth belongs to the Creator.  He is interested in knowing if we will use it to His glory or if we will try to hoard it for ourselves.  If we hoard it for ourselves it is subject to decay.  If we use it for His purpose we have effectively deposited it in His bank.  He will repay in full; if not in this life, then the next. 


Luke 16:9  "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.  10  "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.  11  "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  12  "And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 


Ps 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.


Luke 16:13  "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


Who we serve is evident in our conduct.  It applies not only to money, but also to how we spend our time.  Do we seek what edifies or what entertains?  Believers will take their minds with them into the Kingdom.  Physical things will be left behind.  Collecting physical things will not be of long term value.  Teaching our mind with the instruction and example of our Savior will never be taken away. 


Mat 7:12  "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ”     Little things make a big difference.  If we look out for how we can help with little things the big things will not slip by unnoticed.  Nothing is too small to the mentality that is selfless.    


Phil 2:4  “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” 


A friend was walking by a vacant for-sale home and noticed a stream of water running down the driveway.  He investigated and saw that a valve in the sprinkler system was stuck open.  He could have reasoned that it wasn’t his problem and kept on walking.  Instead he turned off the water to the valve, got the number of the real estate agent and at the first opportunity let him know what had happened.  It took little effort on my friends’ part, but saved water for everyone and probably a significant bill for the owner of the house.  The world would be a much better place if we all looked out for one another like this.


Phil 2:21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Christ wants us to grasp for the ways of the Father and treat our neighbor as we would want to be treated.  We should not be intent on protecting our own back side.  We should feel others loss as well and seek to minimize it.


1John 3:17  “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”


Although we certainly need to be helpful to others whenever possible this particular verse seems to be focused on believing brothers.  As of verse 14 the context is dealing specifically with believing brethren.  The Creator does not always give to everyone who asks (Jas 4:6).  He resists the proud, arrogant and even many who sit on the spiritual fence, the double minded (Jas 1:7-8).  A fellow believer is another matter.  By definition he will not be proud, arrogant or double minded.  He will be seeking to serve his Creator and support himself.  Any time, effort or expense invested in such a person will be going directly toward our Masters account (Mat 25:40).  Identifying a true believer is another problem.


Mat 6:19  “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”


Our savior believes in banking, but not primarily with a bank of this society.  Time, effort or money can be deposited in His bank when we support His cause or purpose.  In fact, this whole world is His.  Any wealth we have is really His.  What better deal could there be than using loaned money from Him to make a deposit in the bank of Heaven and never needing to repay the loan?


Mat 25:39  ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  40  "And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 


Consider that this applies when we help and support as well as slight or take advantage of others.  We will not be able to slight our Savior without damaging our relationship with Him.


Mat 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”


Everyone is due a certain amount of respect and consideration.  Believers do what they can to break down barriers of hatred and distrust by helping those with whom there is contention.  They don’t write-off anyone as hopeless.


Original Instruction


Our Savior focused on the need to show concern and compassion, love toward our fellow man.  These concepts did not originate with His arrival in the flesh.  These same concepts were taught in especially the Sinai covenant.


Ex 23:4-5  "If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.  5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it."


The intent of these verses is not to teach compassion for donkeys, but that we should help even our enemies.  This is what creates peace. 


Our Savior didn‘t revisit every stipulation of the original instruction in the Creator’s covenant when He taught on earth.   It is a treasure trove of intent and godly principles if it is read for the spirit, not just the letter.   If we are to be the children of our Creator we should reflect His conduct.  Everything we do is attributed to Him if we claim to be His.


Ex 21:2-4  “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. …  4  If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.” 


The servant of a master was considered an extension of the master.  Everything the servant did was as if the master did it.  Even the child born of a temporary servant was considered the child of the master.  As servants of our Savior (I Cor 7:22) everything we do is attributed to our Savior.  Of course He doesn’t own our sin, but servants reflect their master to his credit or embarrassment.


Ex 21:33  "And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it,  34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.” 


Again, this is not about donkeys.  It is about personal responsibility.  Those seeking to show love for their neighbor, do not leave hazards in their way that could do them harm.  If they are responsible for an accident they make the situation right by appropriate action or compensation.  We are responsible for the safety of those within our sphere of influence.  That can involve any area of our property, auto, work, or whatever. 


Ex 22:14 "And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good.” 


Who decides what ‘good’ is?   

Ex 21:22  "If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.”


Although western society looks at things differently now, like it or not, wives were considered the property of the husband.  The ‘woman’s husband’ is literally ‘the possessor of the woman’ in the Hebrew text.  As property owner his sense of justice weighed heavily in a ruling.  Victims had rights.  Borrowed items owners deserved the same respect.  The situation needed to be made right especially in the eyes of the owner who was the victim.  That should be the approach of the believer in similar circumstances.


Ex 21:8  "If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her.  9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.  10 If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.”


This society influences our perspective.  Believers seek His perspective.  Two issues in the above scripture are faithfulness to commitments and plural wives.  A betrothal assumed a binding commitment.  If the marriage had not be consummated irreversible harm had not been done, but it was still the man’s duty to make the situation right.  Harm was done.  The man did not follow through on his commitment.  This was deception.  We show love for our neighbor when we do what we say we will do.


Western society is generally repulsed by multiple wives in a family.  The Creator evidently doesn’t have this same perspective.  Do we seek His perspective or are we sure our own is correct?  There are still societies in which multiple wives are permitted.  This is not a dead issue.  Believers seek His perspective.  Many churches claiming to be Christian have meddled in these marriages without understanding the Creator’s perspective.  They try to make them conform to western society not the Creator’s instruction.  This could be compared to taking the name of the Creator in vain.


A surface reading is insufficient to mine all the wisdom of the Creator’s covenant.  The reading should not consider just the words, but the principles and fundamental basis of intent.  It is unlikely a single thoughtful reading will extract everything that can be drawn from His covenant made at Sinai.  One should come back again and again.  This material does not contain any trappings or outward show of religion.  It is all about how to love and respect the Creator and our neighbor.  Our own common sense is not a good guide.


Jer 10:23 “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”


There are chapters in Leviticus that were given after the Sinai covenant was sealed, but obviously contain instruction the Creator considers fundamental.  He is claiming this instruction as His own.  Specifically chapters 18-20 are referred to as ‘My statutes’, ‘My judgments’ and even ‘My ordinances’ (Lev 18:4-5, 26, 30, 19:19, 37, 20:8, 22).  Much of this instruction connects to a principle in His covenant and is adding detail.  In particular:


Lev 19:18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.’


They were to remember how it felt to be a slave in Egypt and not treat foreigners that way (Ex 22:21, 23:9).  It only follows that they would show love and concern for everyone.  Believers are concerned for their property as well as their person.  Neither does a believer try to take advantage if the opportunity is available.  This is the righteous suffering of the saints.  It need not involve physical pain, but involves denying ourselves the luxury of self promotion or preservation in which we all like to engage.




Selfless giving does not involve self promotion.   If we seek to be acknowledged by men for the giving we do it is not acceptable as a sacrifice to the Creator.  Believers trust that the Creator will see and acknowledge our sacrifice when it is appropriate.  There is no desire to impress men.


Mat 7:1, 4 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven…4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.


There are circumstances of life that can create a bit of a conflict of interest for us.  Recognizing this can enable us to minimize its effect.


I Cor 7:32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord--how he may please the Lord.  33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world--how he may please his wife.  34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband.  35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”  


It is primarily the husband’s responsibility to set the direction in the marriage, but certainly the wife has influence.  In any case, how much time, effort or financial support a family can give should be discussed or subject to negotiation.


Luke 14:12 ‘Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.   13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."’


Sometimes the poor are that way at least partially because they are socially inept.  Care should be taken to be sure everyone will be able to get along and the event will not become a fiasco instead of a feast. 


Jas 4:6 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."  


The Creator doesn’t give to everyone who asks (see also: 1Pet 5:5).  In fact, some giving banks nothing.


Prov 22:16  “He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty.” 


Humility and need are worthy of help.  It is often said: “God helps those who help themselves”.  There is truth in this.  However, He doesn’t help us do what we can do for ourselves.  It is probably more true that: “God helps those who can’t help themselves”.  Once we’ve done everything we can, if we still come up short that is when we can ask and expect Him to help us through.  That basis should also be fundamental to our willingness to suffer loss for others.




1Tim 6:18  “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share


Truly loving our neighbor requires we have faith and trust in our Savior.  The just live by faith.  Understand who the Master is, how He thinks.  Believers not only do no harm, but help and support their fellow man.  Believers use their wealth and time as opportunity comes for the selfless cause of the Master.   This seems to put them at risk or cause momentary anguish and/or suffering whether of time or money, but in fact it is increasing our account balance in the Bank of Heaven.  The feeling of suffering is from our flesh.  The spirit is unconcerned.  We are doing the work of our Master and He will make it good. 


Rom 8:12  “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live…17  and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”