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Love Your Neighbor | What To Do In A Crazy World

#storychanging

Love Your Neighbor | What To Do In A Crazy World

Monday “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… all your soul…all your strength…all your mind…”  Luke 10:27

We LOVE a favorite restaurant. We LOVE a song, our dog, and our neighbor’s new car. But in the words of that great philosopher, Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” We may have strong preferences or attractions, but they are not love. Real love is multidimensional. It involves our whole being. And because God commands us to love Him with our whole being, Jesus broke love down into four parts. When we understand those parts, we’re better equipped to understand how love for God is different from love for tacos. (Yes, taco-lovers. It is different.)

The HEART determines our affections. When we love the Lord with all our hearts, we lose our affection for things that displease Him. The SOUL is the seat of decision-making. Loving God with all our soul means we choose actions that align with His word. The MIND is where our battles take place. Satan introduces doubt, heresy, or blasphemies, trying to control the information the mind sends to the heart and soul. When we love God with all our minds, we bow our intellect to His often-unfathomable ways. We allow His truth to prevail over our understanding. And STRENGTH is the daily determination to follow and obey no matter what is coming against us. Our strength comes from the Holy Spirit who helps us love and obey.

Final Thought: Do you love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Which of the four do you withhold? 

Prayer: Father, my love for you is so feeble compared to your love for me. Help me learn to love you with every part of my life: my thoughts, my affections, my desires, and my actions. Only then can I enjoy your presence.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday  “…and your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

The word “neighbor” has a friendly sound to it. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was a happy, innocent place where all the neighbors were kind and cared for one another. This verse fits nicely into that setting. It’s easy to love the elderly couple who brought you cookies when you moved in. Or the handyman down the block who’s always there with his toolbox when you have a leak. But if loving our neighbors was that easy, we wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it. God has to order us to love our neighbors because He extended the boundaries of the neighborhood. We don’t get to choose our neighbors. Our neighborhood reaches from suburb to ghetto, from farm to high-rise, from race to race, from political party to political party. NOW try it!

When Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbors, He knew that obliterated the need for any other commands. If we obeyed those two, we wouldn’t have to be told not to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. If we loved God like He deserves to be loved, we would show up before Him every morning, eager to learn how we could please Him that day. If we loved our neighbors as ourselves, we would treat them like God wants us to treat them. Loving our neighbors means we don’t trash talk on social media. We don’t cuss them out, ignore their needs, or grab the best for ourselves. We discipline our bodies because they are God’s temples and refuse to use someone else’s body for selfish reasons. And loving our neighbors as ourselves means we care about their souls. We show them Jesus by doing for them what He would do for them.

Final Thought:  We love our neighbors as ourselves by responding to individuals the way Jesus would. 

Prayer: Lord, I fall far short of your command to love others as I love myself, but I want to do better. Open my eyes to see the needs of people in front of me. They’re not the enemy; they’re my mission field. Help me love them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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WednesdayBut a Samaritan on a journey came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion.  Luke 10:33

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan has been so politicized and caricaturized that we often miss its power. The Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar Bible stories, but since we don’t know any Samaritans, it’s hard to grasp the significance of what this man did. So let’s yank it from ancient times and splash it across the front pages. Let’s place it in a 21st-century American setting and make YOU the main character. So, park the donkey and enter this scene…

*Your grandparents migrated to this country, built a business, and sacrificed so their children could have a better life. They’ve enjoyed a measure of success due to long hours and hard work. Then one night, rioters on a rampage pour into their neighborhood, torch their business, drag Grandma outside to humiliate her, and beat up Grandpa inside his own store. The mob screams racist slogans that have nothing to do with your grandparents, and they get away with it while city officials look the other way. You hear of this outrage and race to their city to help, but you’re met with more out-of-control hatred. The rioters scream that you’re part of the problem and you should die too. Then the National Guard arrives and it’s mass chaos as rioters clash with the law. You run to safety, but behind you, one of the loudest rioters goes down, trampled by his own mob. He’s the one who beat up Grandpa. Now his own gang has left him to die. What do you do? THAT’S what this parable is about.

Final Thought: Do you have compassion on your enemies? Would you risk your own safety to help them?

Prayer: No, Lord, I wouldn’t. I might turn away. Now I understand why you chose a Samaritan for the hero. He was the person with the best reason not to help. But you call me to a higher level of love. Give me the strength to love my enemies. Amen.

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ThursdayGoing over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Luke 10:34

Going over to him… Let’s consider some other responses the Samaritan might have chosen. “Going over to him, the Samaritan stood there frowning… he kicked dirt in the wounds… he said, “I hope you learned your lesson…” he said, “It serves you right.” What would you have done? We’re all prepping for a major exam scheduled for November 3. Regardless of which political party wins the election, half the nation will be disappointed. And it’s become acceptable to be hateful and arrogant in expressing our opinions, even violent if we don’t win. What if we chose a Samaritan attitude? What would that look like?

A Samaritan attitude did not cheer when President Trump got sick. It calmly accepts the verdict whoever wins. It refuses to take social or moral cues from the media. It loves and prays for its opponent. Picture the good Samaritan after election day. Would he crow in his victory or riot in his loss? Would he taunt the loser or curse the winner? The phrase “Going over to him” implies a humble willingness to enter someone else’s world of hurt. What if during elections, Christians were known for going over to our political opposites and soothing their wounds? What if in every election, Christians made sure that Jesus won? 

Final Thought: Loving our neighbors is not what we do; it’s who we are. Love doesn’t take time off.

Prayer: Father, I get so angry about issues that love takes a backseat. Help me develop a Samaritan attitude toward those who disagree with me. No matter which political agenda wins the election, may I demonstrate kindness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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FridayAnd while they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:8

Prejudice and hatred were not invented by white Americans. Racial prejudice, ethnic hatred, and socio-economic bias are as old as humanity. Most people groups have lists of other people groups they look down on, fear, or hate. Part of our sin nature is to crave an us-vs-them sense of belonging. That human yearning is part of the power behind street gangs. It’s the glue that holds cults and false religions together. And it began just outside the Garden of Eden with Cain’s thought: “My brother thinks he’s better than me. He thinks shepherds are better than farmers. We’ll see about that!” We haven’t improved at all.

At the root of all prejudice is pride combined with negative experience. Maybe you’ve never been personally threatened with beheading by an Arabic Muslim, but you’ve heard about it. You were outraged, angry, and opened the door for Pride. While you were experiencing righteous indignation over a tragic action, Pride whispered, “They’re all like that. You’re not like that. You’re a better person than those people are.” And just like that, prejudice settled over your soul toward a people group comprised of individuals you’ve never met. We unquestioningly accept stereotypes about people we don’t know and that bias affects our mission. We can’t love people when we nurture bias, offense, or stereotypes. Is a bit of Cain hiding in your heart?

Final Thought:  What prejudice lurks in your heart? Recognizing it as sin is the first step in changing it.

Prayer: Father, search my heart. Show me where prejudice hides. I confess it now as sin. Help me find ways to reach out to those people groups and minister to them. Serving them will replace my bad attitude with love. In Jesus’ name, amen.