Episode 38: Love Thy Neighbor

Read the sermon text at Spurgeon.org

I want to say thank you to everyone who has had kind words and continued prayers for me as I have been working through the divorce and all of the personal fallout that has been involved.  I want to especially thank Alex Humphrey of The Rugged Marriage and his wife Rachel, and I definitely recommend subscribing to their podcast if you don’t already.  They were a tremendous encouragement to me, along with many others in my church and around me who have helped counsel me through this.

I debated exactly how I wanted to deal with the ongoing podcast, and I decided I want to just jump back into it with both feet.  I have a few reasons: firstly, as I have said before, this exercise is as much a devotional for me as it is a desire to minister the gospel to others, and it does my heart good to be sitting under the teaching of a man like Charles Spurgeon in this manner, who himself was under a great deal of weight on his heart.

Secondly, I want to have my say, for whatever it’s worth, about what I see happening in the world and the way others are talking about it.  I invite dialogue, although I do require good behavior.  I will be saying things here that many will disagree with.  If you can disagree with me respectfully, I will publish and engage with your comments as best I can.  If you can’t engage with someone who disagrees with you without treating them as subhuman, I would suggest not wasting your time here.  Not because I hate you, but because if even the most fundamental foundation needed for discussion is absent and all you can do is snark and meme your way through a rant, you and I will not be getting very far.

Loving your neighbor, loving your enemy

I want to point out something very important about the concept of loving your neighbor, and to do that I want to look to Scripture:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”–Luke 10:25-37

The first thing I want to point out about this: this is a command.  I’m not exactly breaking new exegetical ground here, but it is common for people to handle moral issues in the context of “Well, I may do X, but that guy, he’s a real jerk!”  We do that with everyone from our literal neighbors to people in the public eye we will probably never meet.  So, I want to do exactly what Charles Spurgeon did here: I want everyone to take this command and say to everyone, it is pointing squarely at you.  It points at me and you, reader, and each one of us will have to stand before God and account for our obedience to it.

Yet it seems that the primary emotion being demonstrated by many right now is fear, with a healthy backing of anger.  You have fearful liberals and fearful conservatives, fearful radical progressives and fearful alt-rightists who are so convinced that the other is going to destroy them and everything they hold dear.  There is no love for God or for neighbor in their thinking, but there is the thought that “As soon as the other guy is taken down a peg, or removed, or whatever, then the world will be sunshine and butterflies, the poor will have food and the oppressed will be free.”

I have news for you, my friends.  Fear and love are enemies.  “Perfect love casts out fear.”  And if you are a Christian and your reaction to another person who is outside of your camp is fear and anger, if it’s looking for a way to build a compound to hide in rather than to understand and engage with your neighbor, to serve their needs and love them where they are, then I have to put it to you that you are disobeying Jesus, and you need to repent and adjust your heart.  I have seen Christians behaving absolutely shamefully towards other Christians–and if your reaction to these words is defensiveness or finger-pointing then I guarantee that yes, I am talking about you.

But there’s no one I’m harder on in this regard than myself.  I am always looking to hold my thoughts and actions against the standard of righteousness here, and I am wanting.  Yet I do not despair, for two reasons: firstly, because I know that Christ’s sacrifice is enough to cover every sin I have, and that His righteousness will be mine on that day of judgment; and secondly, because I know that God is working in my life through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit to change me, bit by bit, into the image of Christ.  I want that, I want to represent Him in love and peace and joy through all things.  My friends, I pray that for each of you, you will know the desire for holiness in God in that simultaneous ache of longing and satisfaction of having Jesus.

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