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Loving your Neighbor

Loving your Neighbor

Loving God can be hard because we can’t see Him. But loving our neighbor can be hard because we CAN see him. Sometimes he’s so annoying that we don’t want to see him!

Reminds me of the guy who drives down to Soldier Field in Chicago. He says to the guy at the ticket counter “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” Seller says “I’m sorry, we don’t have tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs.” The next day, the guy comes back to the ticket counter again. he says “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” Seller says “Do you have a problem? I told you yesterday that we don’t have tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs.” But the guy keeps coming back every day for two weeks! Finally on the 14th day, he says “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” The seller says “You are driving me crazy! For the last time, we don’t have any tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs!” The guy says “I know. I drive down from Wisconsin every day just to hear you say that!”

That guy was annoying! How many of you know someone who is really annoying? As Christians, how do we love people like that? How do we show the compassion of God to the same people who drive us crazy, and WHY should we even bother?

That’s the topic of today’s sermon.

In Matthew 22, Jesus interacts with irritating people who try to trip Him up with trick questions: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? If a woman has seven husbands, whose wife will she be at the resurrection?

Now they ask Him “Which commandment is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The word translated “love” means “wholehearted, unconditional affection.” We should love our neighbor with almost as much passion and purpose as we put into our relationship with God!

You say “Wait a minute! The leaders didn’t ask Jesus about the SECOND greatest commandment. So why does Jesus mention it?

Because love for God is validated and demonstrated by our love for others. You cannot love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength without loving his people. How do I know that? Because of 1 John 4:20. It says “If anyone says, ’I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar!” Loving God and loving your neighbor is a package deal. If you love God, you have to love his kids.

How would you feel if someone said “I like you. You’re a good guy. It’s your creepy kid I can’t stand. I don’t know how you can put up with that munchkin every day.”

I’m going out on a limb here, but you would probably not take that as a compliment. You’d say “Anyone who’s not OK with my kid is not OK with me.”

That’s how God feels. If we’re not OK with His kids, we’re not OK with Him. This doesn’t mean you need to be best buddies with everyone you ever meet, but it does mean supporting, strengthening, serving, and interceding for neighbors in need.

Next question we need to ask is “Who are the neighbors God wants us to love?”Jesus explains this in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. A man gets beat up and left for dead by robbers. A priest passes him by, then a Levite passes him by. Then a Samaritan man sees the hurt guy, and takes pity on him. He bandages up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he takes him to a roadside inn and pays for the man’s expenses while he recovers from his injuries.

Then Jesus says “That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Showing kindness to the least, the last, the lost, the lonely, and the unloved. Extending God’s grace in its various forms to the hurting, hated and heartbroken people He brings into your life.

And Jesus says we should love them as we love ourselves. I eat three meals a day, I brush my teeth, I take my colitis medicines, and sometimes I even exercise because I care about the body God has given me.

Jesus is saying we need to show the same concern for others that we have for ourselves, even the ones that drive us bonkers. One thing we can do is support people spiritually.Romans 12:25 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”

I read about a boy who went to the store to buy milk for his mom, but he got home later than anticipated. Mom says “Why are you late?” The boy said “I saw a boy crying next to a broken tricycle and I went over to help him.” Mom says “You are such a sweet boy! Did you fix the tricycle?” Boy says “No, I couldn’t fix it.” Mom says “What did you do next?” The boy says “I sat down and cried with him.”

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to alleviate the situation. But we give emotional support just by being there.

But I still give my emotional and spiritual support. I can say “I am unable to help you. But I’m good friends with the One person who CAN help you. Let’s look to Him in prayer right now.” Ephesians 6:19 says “Be diligent, and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

You say “Pastor Marc, what about the person who calls me on the phone four times a week? I know they need spiritual support, but it’s getting to the point where I don’t want to answer the phone anymore! The constant calls drive me crazy! What should I do?”

Talk to them. Give them 10-15 minutes of attention, affirmation, and support. Then you put your thumb over the earpiece, and you say “I need to get off the phone. I need to get back to what I was doing. Thanks for calling. You want to have lunch next week? Great. I’ll see you at the Hearthstone Monday. Bye.”

You can be a supportive witness for Christ by talking on the phone to the needy people God brings into your life. But you also have a right to get back to what you were doing. So try this out and see if it works.

We can support people spiritually, and we can also encourage people heartily. Hebrews 3:13 says “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

People are starving for encouragement, because of the economy, because of family problems, and because of personal failure. So as a messenger of Jesus Christ, you have the awesome privilege of being able to bring the encouraging news of God’s love to people in your life.

There’s a girl in the youth group who has a napkin note ministry. We were up in Door County having breakfast, and she takes out this napkin, and she writes “The hash browns were delicious, the service was sensational, and you were very nice. And by the way, Jesus loves you.”

I don’t know where she got the idea. I take that back. I know where she got the idea! But isn’t that a cool way to love your neighbor as yourself? Isn’t that a neat way to share the encouraging words of God?

Do you know anyone right now who’s been down in the dumps? Is there anyone in your life that needs to be cheered up? Send them a note. When you get to the end, you can say “By the way, Jesus loves you, and so do I.” Proverbs 16:24 says that “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and healing to the bones.”

Jesus goes on to say that “All the law and the prophets hang on the commandments to love God and love others. Paul even says in Romans 13:8 that he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

Why should we love our neighbor? Number one: Because God loved us first! 1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Number two: We should love our neighbor because we want them to know that they are loved. In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. No one wanted to have anything to do with him.

But later that year, Senator Mark Hatfield flew out to California to spend a couple of days with the former President. When he left, reporters said to him “Why did you fly out to California to see Nixon? It’s not going to look good for your political career to be seen with a disgraced politician.”

Hatfield replied by saying “The only reason I flew out there was to let Mr. Nixon know that someone loved him.”

The world will know that we are Christians by our love. Jesus loves you so much. Once we receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we need to take His message of love to the people in our lives. Love your neighbor as yourself by supporting them and encouraging them in these hard times in which we live. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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