Love Your Neighbor

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Since February is the month of celebrating love we have been and will be talking about love this month.  Last week we started our love series by talking about loving ourselves.  I shared with you that this may be one of the hardest things to do because sometimes we do not even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.  There are four reasons why we need to love ourselves.  

We love ourselves because God created us. 

We love ourselves because God commands it. 

We love ourselves because God is committed to loving us. 

We love ourselves because we are children of God. 

That was last week.  This week we are going to talk about something different.

But before that.  Can we just talk about love for a minute?  I know we like to say the most precious three words in the world, “I love you.” But love is not just something that we say.  It is something that we do.  If I have told you once I have told you a thousand times love is an action word.  You can’t just say you love your neighbor your have to show that you love your neighbor.  The best way to do this is to L.O.V.E.  Live Our Values Everyday.  We have to be the person that God created us to be, and the best way to do that is to live a life that shows love to others.

This is what Jesus is telling the Pharisees in our text today.  Shall we take a look.  As I shared with you last week, Jesus had just finished putting the Sadducees in their place after they tries to test him.  The Pharisees did not want the same thing to happen to them so they got together to scheme, plot, and plan.  One of them an expert in the law had the audacity, gumption, and the unmitigated gull to ask Jesus a question about the law.  The reason that is so crazy is because He is the one that wrote the law.  That’s like questioning C.S. Lewis about The Chronicles of Narnia.  And he asks Jesus what commandment in the law is the greatest.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In other words Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the most important thing in the world is love.  To love your God, to love your neighbor, and to love yourself.  Last week we talked about loving ourselves and this week we are going to talk about loving our neighbor.

So the question then becomes, who is my neighbor?  This had me thinking about Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.  Please won’t you be my neighbor.  Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood?  Who are the people in to your neighborhood?  The people in your neighborhood.  I hope you all know that when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourself he is not referring to just the people that live next door to you.  Or the people in your apartment complex.  Or even the people in your neighborhood.  He is talking about every other human being in the world.  

So that could be your actual neighbor.

The person in front of you in line at Kroger.

The man working on your car.

The cashier checking you out.

The plumber working on your toilet.

The server bringing you your food.

The homeless man asking for money.

The kid that stole your daughter’s bike.

The homosexual couple that lives across the street from you.

The single father raising the kids on his own.

The drug addict trying to kick or not kick the habit.

The young man with his pants sagging.

The young girl that is looking for love in all the wrong places.

The coworker that never speaks to anyone.

The coworker that talks to everyone that won’t ever shut up.

Your boss or your supervisor.

The people you like and the people that you don’t like.

I think your get the point.  All these people are our neighbor and God expects us to love them all!  Here are five reasons we must love our neighbor.

It is commanded.  It is right there in our text after love the Lord your God…  Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.  We covered loving ourself last week.  Now we can get to work on loving our neighbor because that is exactly what God has called us to do.  Or I should have said its exactly what God has commanded us to do.  Let me give you a PSA a public service announcement.  If God tells us to do something we should do it.  I know that sounds simple, but the truth of the matter is that it is really that simple.  There is no reason to to get deep and philosophical.  I keep telling people that God is not that deep.  God is not that deep because everyone cannot swim.  And he does not want us to drown.  It’s simple, the Lord says do and we do.  God says jump and we say how high.  God says go and we say go where.  Almost every single thing that happens in the Bible is a result of God’s people either doing or not doing what God tells them to do.  And here’s my issue church, we do what everyone else tells us to do, but we don’t do what God tells us to do.  Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.

We do what our parents tell us to do.

Our Spouse

As we get older we do what our children tell us to do.

Our doctor.

Our dentist.

Our financial planner.

Our friends.

Our family.

Our boss.

Our coworkers.

Our society.

Social media.

We must give that same respect to our God.  We must do what God tells us to do.  

We love our neighbor because God commands us to.

It is correct.  Loving your neighbor is the correct thing to do.  

It is what’s right.  

It is what’s proper.  

It is what’s accurate. 

It is what’s good.  

It is what’s expected.  

We have to treat people the way we want to be treated.  I do not understand why this concept is so hard for some people to understand.  This is certainly not how the Pharisees treated their neighbors.  They were always walking around quoting the law while not fully following the law, and at the same time judging others because they made mistakes concerning the law.  I mean think about it for a minute, they were upset because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  They were so caught up in the law, they missed the miracle in their midst.  That will preach right there.  How many times have you been caught up in the unimportant things in life and missed the miracle in your midst.  Back to my point.  A man who had been lame from birth was healed by Jesus.  He entered the temple singing, praising, and dancing and all they were worried about was the fact that Jesus did it on the Sabbath.  Jesus was correct in healing this man on the sabbath because love is an action word.  

We must love our neighbor because it is correct.

It is courageous.  Loving your  neighbor takes courage.  Especially if the particular neighbor is not well liked or seen as less than by others.  Sometimes loving your neighbor requires you to step out of your comfort zone, and this takes courage.  Sometimes loving your neighbor will involve you doing something that you have never done and this takes courage.  Sometimes loving your neighbor will cause you to put someone else’s needs or wants above your own and this takes courage.  

It takes courage to love your neighbor.

It is contagious.  What in the world are your talking about Pastor B?  I am talking about the fact that once you start loving your neighbor everyone around you will start loving their neighbor.  Then everyone around them will start loving their neighbor and so on and so on and so on.  The next thing you know we will have a world full of people loving their neighbor no matter what they look like.

No matter how much money they make.

No matter what their career choice.

No matter what their marital status is.

No matter what their political party is.

No matter what their sexual orientation is.

No matter what their stance on abortion is.

No matter what drug their addicted to.

No matter how much they’ve disappointed you.

No matter how hard it is we will love one another because it is contagious.

It is commended.  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25. 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In other words, when you love your neighbor the Lord has a reward prepared for you.  But if you don’t he won’t!

The Lord God himself will commend us for loving our neighbors.

Let me close this out with a story called “A Party for a Prostitute.”

It was one of the most extraordinary birthday parties ever held. No it wasn’t in a plush ballroom of a grand hotel. No there weren’t famous celebrities, nor anyone rich or powerful. It was held at 3am in a small seedy cafe in Honolulu, the guest of honor was a prostitute, the fellow guests were prostitutes, and the man who threw it was a Christian minister!

The idea came to Christian minister Tony Campolo very early one morning as he sat in the cafe. He was drinking coffee at the counter, when a group of prostitutes walked in and took up the stools around him. One of the girls, Agnes,  lamented the fact that not only was it her birthday tomorrow but that she’d never had a birthday party.

Tony thought it would be a great idea to surprise Agnes with a birthday party. Learning from the cafe owner, a guy named Harry, that the girls came in every morning around 3.30am Tony agreed with him to set the place up for a party. Word somehow got out on the street, so that by 3.15 the next morning the place was packed with prostitutes, the cafe owner and his wife, and Tony.

When Agnes walked in she saw streamers, balloons, Harry holding a birthday cake, and everyone screaming out “Happy Birthday!” Agnes was overwhelmed. The tears poured down her face as the crowd sang Happy Birthday. When Harry called on her to cut the cake she paused. She’d never had a birthday cake and wondered if she could take it home to show her mother. When Agnes left there was a stunned silence. Tony did what a Christian minister should. He led Harry, Harry’s wife and a roomful of prostitutes in a prayer for Agnes.

It was a birthday party rarely seen in Honolulu – thrown by a Christian minister for a 39 year old prostitute who had never had anyone go out of their way to do something like this and who expected nothing in return. Indeed, so surprising was this turn of events that the cafe owner found it hard to believe there were churches that would do this sort of thing, but if there were then that’s the sort of church he’d be prepared to join.  

So my question to you this morning is what kind of church are we?  And I’m not just talking about SCC but the I am talking to the body of Christ.

Are we the type of church to throw a party for a prostitute?

Are we the type of church to have a baby shower for an unwed teenage mother?

Are we the type of church that doesn’t just shout pro-life but also believes that it’s our responsibility to help care for the child once it’s here?  You can’t be pro-life pro-life pro-life and then want to cut off programs that were created to help feed, house, and clothe those that are less fortunate than us.

Are we the type of church that impacts the community?

Are we the type of church that looks out for children?

Are we the type of church that is open and welcoming to all?

Are we the type of church that loves our neighbor?

This is my prayer for the kingdom. 


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