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3 Things to Remember About Loving Your Neighbor

5 Mins read

Christ’s command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is one of the cornerstone principles that He taught during His three-plus years of ministry. While it’s easy to recognize that command as something that’s important, it’s crucial that we understand how to put that love into practice that way that Jesus said to. If you’re struggling with the idea of loving your neighbor, keep these three principles in mind.

Matthew 22:37-40 (TPT)
Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’ Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.”

When Christ said these words, He was being confronted by the religious leaders of the day who were hoping to entrap Him into saying something that would give them a reason to arrest Him. If they could trick Him into saying that part of Moses’ law was more important than another, they could turn that into blasphemy before the courts, and end the ministry of Jesus.

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However, instead of falling prey to the trap, Jesus said that all of the commandments went back to one thing: love. Everything that God expects from His people can be tied to either loving God or loving other people. While loving God is easy (He is so loving toward us, it makes it easy to love Him), loving others sometimes requires a bit more work. Afterall, humans can be disagreeable, difficult, and sometimes downright mean.

As children of God, we are fully aware of the importance of loving others like we love ourselves. Doing so is one of the foundational principles of Christianity that Jesus taught about when He was asked what the most important aspects of the law were. When trying to figure out how to effectively put that kind of love into practice, it’s important that we remember three basic concepts. Doing so ensures that we’re living and loving exactly the way that Jesus wants us to.

It’s Not Optional

Matthew 22:39 (TPT)
And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’

The word “must” doesn’t really leave us a lot of wiggle room when we’re trying to decide who deserves our love and who doesn’t. While we often look for ways to get out of things, loving others isn’t the kind of thing that we can pass off onto someone else. Instead, according to Jesus Himself, we “must” love our friends in the same way that we love ourselves.

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To make things even more demanding in regard to loving others, did you catch what Jesus said in the first part of that verse? “The second is like it in importance.” What was Jesus saying was equally important to loving others? He had just finished saying that His followers should love God with every passion of their heart, with all the energy of their being, and with every through that is within them. Then, He says, “This second part is just as important as that part.”

You may have heard it said that we should love God, then love others, then care for ourselves. This passage of Scripture seems to debunk the idea that those principles should be listed vertically on a priority list. When you look at those ideas as numbers 1, 2, and 3 on your list, loving God is the most important, while loving others comes in second. That’s simply not what Jesus said. Instead, He taught that our love for others is equal to our love for God when discussing how important those principles are. Instead of ranking those priorities vertically, consider putting them on the same line of your list of priorities. Loving God is first, and loving others is equal to it, meaning it’s also first.

It Involves Loving Yourself

Matthew 22:39 (TPT)
And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’

We’re not intentionally focusing much of today’s study on this one verse, but the things that you need to remember about loving others largely involves one simple statement from Jesus. We just discussed how loving others is just as important as loving God. But when you read this verse in its entirety, you see that Jesus was just as focused on us loving ourselves.

That idea challenges our theology, especially those of us who have grown up hearing that we’re supposed to neglect ourselves in the name of serving God and serving others. While God does not want us to put our own selfish wishes ahead of His teachings or the needs of others, God wants you to love yourself!

Take a moment and let that sink in, especially if you’re one of the millions of Christians who has long believed that loving yourself is somehow sinful. We often become so focused on the Bible verses where Jesus talks about “denying ourselves” in the name of discipleship that we assume that self-denial is equal to self-loathing. That’s simply not the case.

It’s been said that you cannot pour from an empty vessel. The meaning behind that statement is simple: in order to be able to effectively care for others, you must care for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you lie and manipulate people in order to advance yourself. However, it does mean that you learn the importance of setting boundaries and take the time necessary to care for yourself. Loving others doesn’t mean that you have to say “yes” to every request on your time. Sometimes, the best way to love others is to take the time to rest, regroup, and refresh yourself so you can more effectively minister to others later.

Love Leaves a Legacy

1 Corinthians 13:13 (TPT)
Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love-yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.

When Paul said, “until then,” he was referring to the end of time as we know it, when our faith in Christ is finally fully realized we open our eyes up in the paradise that He has made for us. Paul taught that some of the things that will last is our faith and our hope, but even more importantly than either of those, our love will last.

The way that you choose to love others will leave a legacy that outlasts anything else that you do in your life. You could own the most successful business in the world, live in the finest home, and drive the newest car. When you die, someone else will run that business, someone else will live in that home, and someone else will drive that care. You can amass great wealth, but when you’re gone, someone else is going to spend that money.

The only part of your legacy that will truly outlast you is the legacy of love that you leave behind. The love you had for God and the love that you had for others will be the things that people talk about you long after you’re gone. How do you want to be remembered? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying personal and professional success, but ultimately, the way that you love people will be what people remember about you when you’re gone. Loving others leaves a legacy that can never be diminished.

A Closing Prayer:

God, I know that Your Word teaches me to love my neighbor, but I want You to help me to do so even deeper. Remind me daily that loving others is just as important as loving You, and allow me to show myself the grace necessary to love myself. Not so I can build myself up in my own mind, but so I can effectively love others with the same love that You’ve loved me. I ask these things in Christ’s name, Amen.

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