This past Sabbath, June 27, 2020, I preached a sermon entitled Unanswered Cry. The premise was based on Proverbs 21:13;
“Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard." (NKJV)
I shared and challenged my church to be vessels of God’s love to others and show how much He cares for them by helping to meet their needs.
One point was that we are called to do this because Jesus, six times in the gospels, references Leviticus 19:18;
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord., so that we can show God’s love to others though action.” (NASB)
To really understand the significance of Jesus quoting this passage is to understand how those hearing Him would have initially understood it. As well as to contemplate how they would have perceived His actions to be inconsistent with what He was saying. (Remember some were looking for anything they could to trap Jesus.)
In the Old Testament, one’s neighbor for the Jews would have referred to a fellow Israelite - God's chosen people. So for them, they could have gotten behind Jesus and helped champion that cause, because they were sort of already doing that. It's not too hard to treat people like you well. And they knew they were special, so why not treat special people special?
But then Jesus goes out of His way to extend neighborly treatment to those the Jews would not have treated with kindness. They certainly would not have loved them as they did themselves. In living a life consistent with the character of His Father, Jesus would interact with everyone. Jesus would meet the needs of everyone.
By Jesus telling the parable of the Good Samaritan or by interacting with the ‘least of these’ the Jews present would have been challenged by Jesus referring not only to Israelites as His neighbor, but also foreigners (Luke 10:25–37) and even enemies (Matthew 5:44).
This is the idea that James picks up in James 2:8, 9;
“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and
are convicted by the law as transgressors” (NASB)
James challenges his readers to follow the royal law of love that would forbid them to discriminate against anyone. To love and do good to those who were like them - friends, but also to foreigners and even enemies.
This is the Biblical idea of loving your neighbor as yourself.
So today, may you take on the challenge of James and begin loving others not only as you love yourself, but would you love others in the way that God would love them?