Love Your Neighbor

“Do to others as you’d have them do to you” Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 7:12.

He then says that that phrase sums up the Bible. The rest of the Bible exists to illustrate and explain that, in the hope that we won’t misunderstand it. But that central point, to love, is still mostly missed, explained away, or just ignored because it is inconvenient and because it is uncomfortable, and because hating is much more natural.

Jesus makes a contrast between who and what he is all about, and who and what the religious establishment is all about in John 10:1-21. Consider the context: Jesus healed a man born blind. Rather than celebrate it, they focused on whether it was okay to do it on the day it happened.

Another way of looking at the contrast is to consider Jesus’ words to his disciples when John and James got their mother to ask him to put them in charge when Jesus came into his kingdom.Jesus upended their world view on so many levels with his response. And the implications for all our relationships, all our social structures is fascinating. But it all grows out of the One Verse, the Great Commandment, to love our neighbor.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:25-28)

How the church organizes itself must be in line with this. How our families work together, must be in line with this. To submit, to serve: it is what Jesus did. He came not to rule but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. Time after time, from the washing of feet incident (John 13), to what Paul says in Philippians 2: that Jesus did not try to hold on to the perks of being God, but gave it up and became nothing, became a servant, to die for us.

The urge to make people do and say and act the way you want them—because it is good for them, because it is right—is the beginning of destruction. Like a gentle snowfall on the mountain slopes, it brings an avalanche. The thought may arise that if someone even disagrees with me on what I hold dear, on what is obviously the only reasonable way to think, then that makes them not just wrong but evil. Obviously evil. Because I am right and what I do and what I say and how I act is good. Therefore, any opposition to me by definition is evil. And it is okay to hate evil. Therefore I can hate you because you are evil. And therefore you are no longer my neighbor. And therefore the commandment to love my neighbor does not apply to you. I do not have to do to you what you would do to me. I can kill you.

If you un-neighbor those you disagree with, you are, in the name of doing what is right, in the name of opposing evil, becoming the very evil you abhor.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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