Love your Neighbor

Lg Good Neighbor provincial wood fence

Keep coming at you today! 


Jesus actually breaks the Pharisee's rules in the question at this point in Matthew 22. This expert in the Law asked Jesus what THE greatest commandment in all the Law was, and Jesus breathlessly begins telling us what the SECOND commandment looks like. 


Two thoughts pop up before we move on: 


1) Perhaps for Jesus, trying to pack our understanding of God into pre-determined rules and frameworks will always leave us wanting. Perhaps he's known all along that one commandment would never do it. So perhaps that makes it worthy to spend some time examining our rules and our regulations about God and see if they are big enough to hold Him up...


2) Loving God by itself, even if it was with your entire heart, entire soul, and entire mind, will not be enough. There's barely a pause between what loving God looks like and what loving our neighbor looks like. For Jesus, all the law and the prophets hang on BOTH of these ideas. And so one is just simply not enough. 


But after those two thoughts sink in, this passage begins to truly haunt us. This is a difficult passage, deceptively so. This is the passage that makes me raise my eyebrows when someone tells me that their biblical hermeneutic is as simple as read the book, and do what it says. How can you simply do what this says, when it raises so very many questions: 


-What does love look like? 


-Does the way I love God have anything to do with the way I love my neighbor? 


-Does loving my neighbor have any kind of action that goes with it, or can I have this emotion while I sit on my couch and watch Oprah re-runs? 


-Who is our neighbor? 


-What if our neighbor doesn't want to be loved? 


-What if loving our neighbor actually winds up hurting our neighbor in the short run? 


-What if our neighbor doesn't love God? 


The sheer depth and breath of what's being suggest in a statement as seemingly simple as "Love your neighbor" is staggering. Jesus even had to take some time in a later teaching to explain exactly who our neighbors are, and his answer wasn't short: 


30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c]and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


So where does this leave us in the youth ministry world? I think it means we need to spend a little bit of time talking about who our neighbors are, and who our kids neighbors are. And I think they're different than what usually comes to mind. In a world where bullying has taken center stage, perhaps an extended discussion on who our neighbors are would be of some benefit. In a world where the political discourse has turned into a verbal demolition derby, examining what it looks like to love our neighbor can only be helpful. 


But loving our neighbor is only the first step of the equation. 


Coming tomorrow: yourself.