Summary: Love your neighbor as yourself is the greatest expression of Christian attitude.
Love Your Neighbor
Some of the simplest passages come with the most profound concepts. These passages often take the most basic of ideas and state them in unusual ways. But, the purest of truths are some of these simple words. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not cheat on your spouse. These are all simple concepts adopted by both Christians and non-Christians. Yes, the summary of these commands is not as simple to follow. Love your neighbor as yourself. Today, I’d like to take a look at one of the greatest, and one of the simplest commands Jesus gave us and see how such a simple, yet profound concept can affect everything we do and impact those around us.
Love is a difficult thing for sinful man to grasp. The Apostle John tried to explain God’s love for us in his letters. He knew Jesus spiritually, but also personally, and was there to experience first hand the love of our savior. He tried to communicate this to others in his letters. In 1st John, chapter 4 he wrote, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” (1 John 4:12) But, “if someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). This is a small version of the love that God has for us. It is clear direction that we are to love all of our fellow men, not just our family, friends but our co-workers, our boss and even strangers on the street. God sacrificed so much for us. This is a small price to pay as a tribute of thanks.
The infinite love of God for man is difficult to comprehend. In our sinful flesh we are apt to be vengeful and hold grudges. We are apt to hurt those closest to us as well as strangers. Regardless of how good we are today, we are still sinful men and women. But, love can be expressed even to those we do not know. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for the mistakes of others. We can experience the joy of love because we know the story and the impact of His coming. But, it may be more important for us to demonstrate the love of Jesus and be examples for others to see and experience that love.
Self-sacrifice for others
Love is self-sacrifice for others. In the magazine The Christian Leader, Don Ratzlaff retells a story from Ernest Gordon’s Miracle on the River Kwai, a story based on World War II events. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened:
A shovel was missing. The Japanese officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot… It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first checkpoint.
The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! The incident had a profound effect… The men began to treat each other like brothers.
When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, like human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors… instead of attacking their captors, they protected them and insisted: “no more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”
The sacrifice of this one man changed the hearts of those around him. He knew that he was innocent. Yet, he chose to take the blame just the same. He faced the punishment to save the others. God willing, we will never be faced with a situation as grim as this one. But we can still impact those around us by our actions. As a popular hymn goes, we can show we are Christians by our Love.
Let me share another story of how love can change those around you.
There was an old monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It was once a great order, but as a result of waves of persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth century, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying house: the abbot and four others. All were over seventy years old. Clearly it was a dying order ant things looked grim.