Love Your Neighbor

June 4th 2024

Love Your Neighbor

Living Examples of Courage

Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas. What do these names have in common?

Each man was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. To win this medal, a soldier must display unparalleled bravery, courage, sacrifice, integrity, and love for others.

Francis Flaherty earned the medal at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Alfred Nietzel earned the medal in 1944 in Heistern, Germany.

Ardie Copas earned the medal in Cambodia in May, 1970.

In each case, the men heroically and sacrificially laid down their lives to save other soldiers, thus earning their place in Medal of Honor history.

And you know what?

The same degree of courageous, others-centered love displayed by Flaherty, Nietzel and Copas is required of every Christian. To use Jesus’s words, you’re called to love your neighbor.

Love Explained by Christ

Jesus explains in Mark 12:28–31:

“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

Jesus’s words raise two important questions:

1) What does it mean to love?

2) Who is my neighbor?

The Apostle Paul offers some helpful answers in a related passage found in Galatians 5:13–14, saying:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Let’s answer our first question: What does it means to love?

The word “love” used here points to a love that’s supreme and sacrificial, devoted and dedicated. And this love is displayed when we “serve” others. Incidentally, the word “serve” is a present tense command, which means we’re meant to serve in a constant, continual, ongoing manner.

But there’s more. The word “serve” means to “to conduct oneself in total service to another” and to “perform the duties of a slave.”[1] In other words, real Christian love is described as a form of sanctified slavery. It’s humble, willing, eager, and submissive service driven by sacrificial love for others.

Paul gives us further instruction on what that love is supposed to look like. Notice the end of verse 14: “as yourself.” Literally, the verse says “love your neighbor as you yourself” (italics mine). Now that doesn’t mean what some people think it means. It doesn’t mean you have to love yourself first. The Bible isn’t advocating self-love.

Rather, Paul is saying that you should be as devoted to meeting the needs of others as you are to your own needs. Think of it like this. When you’re hungry, what do you do? You find something to eat. What do you do when you’re thirsty? You get a drink of water. In short, your natural reflex is to take care of yourself.

And that’s exactly what this verse is saying—be as energetic and eager and excited about meeting the needs of others as you are about meeting your own needs. That’s what it means to love.

Which brings us to our second question: Who are we supposed to love?

Look at the end of verse 13: “one another.” That’s reciprocal love between believers. But it doesn’t end there. Paul gets even more specific at the end of verse 14: “your neighbor.” Which is the same word Jesus uses in Mark 12:31.

Biblically speaking, your neighbor is anyone God puts in your path. It would include believers. Galatians 6:10 – “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

I would also include unbelievers, here, because Galatians 6:10 says “let us do good to all people...” It would even include your enemies. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Let Us Exemplify Christlikeness

Now let’s put it all together. What does Jesus mean when He commands us to love our neighbor?

Loving our neighbor means we are to adopt the attitude of a humble, diligent slave and love everyone who God puts in our path. Which would include: our family; our parents; the sibling that totally annoys us; the neighbors whose dog barks at all hours of the night; the kids at our school; and the Mormon missionaries who come knocking on our door.

Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas.

Each displayed a remarkable measure of selfless and sacrificial love for others. But you don’t have to be a Medal of Honor winner to love like that. In fact, all you need to be is Christlike. That’s what it means to be a Christian. So let’s get busy loving like Jesus.

[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL 2000) 259.

Share this post:

Author: Jeremiah Dennis

A Southerner at heart, Jeremiah loves travel, exercise, and missions. And he's always looking for opportunities to practice his Spanish and French.