Thursday, November 22, 2012

Your Brother and Your Neighbor

Your Brother and Your Neighbor


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? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” – 1 John 4:20

Today is Thanksgiving, and around every table of turkey today we’ll gather as families, as friends, and enjoy a day of simply returning thanks to God for the greatness of His mercy and provisions for us.  God loves a grateful heart, and I cannot think of a better way to show gratefulness than to do what Christ said was the greatest commandments of all. 
In fact, when asked by the young lawyer how he could inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to follow these commands as the law would justify him. Luke 10:27 says You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.

Loving God is easy.  It’s not hard to love someone who shows such great and generous love.  But what about that second part?  What about “and your neighbor as yourself”?  The young lawyer quickly followed the commandments by asking “And who is my neighbor?”, wanting to make a check-list of those he should love, and no doubt hoping certain people were not on the list. 
Many of us are doing the same thing as we read the commandment.  We’re thinking “Surely God does not expect me to love that onry cuss! Even He would not expect me to love him!” or we silently pray “Dear God! After what she has done to me, surely you understand why I cannot love her at this time!” But God makes no exceptions to this rule.  Your neighbor is everyone around you, whether they live beside you, or are in line in front of you at the supermarket.  Your neighbor is every child of His that you come in contact with, today, and every day. No exceptions.

1 John 4:20 takes it a step further and says that if you say “I love God” but you hate your brother, you are a liar.  It says “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”  It goes on to say “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also”.

So, who is your brother? Your brother is your neighbor, which we just discussed, is everyone.  Regardless of race, social standing, what they do in their spare time, how many tattoos or piercings they have, how low they wear their pants, what religion they are, how different from you they are, what they've done to you or what they think of you – they are your brother and your neighbor.

Today we will gather with family members and friends, dear and not-so-dear, and offer up thanks to God for His goodness toward us.  Let love rule the table.  Find a way to love your brother and your neighbor.  Consider that God created them for a special purpose, just as He did you.  God finds value in them.  Can’t you?  Even if it’s nothing more than understanding how beautiful the sound of silence is around them, find a way to love them and be thankful for them.  This is His will for us.  We are not to be a deep well of His love, but a pipeline of His love, without a cut-off valve.

Today I’m thankful to live in God’s love.  Though I’ve done plenty to hurt Him, plenty to disappoint Him, He has never stopped loving me, never once taken me out of His favor and blessings, and has been as near as a whisper since I was 8 ½ years old.  I’ve dethroned Him from my heart many times, placing people and things I thought were more valuable over Him.  But each time I fail, He forgives, and stretches out open arms of love to me.  It’s a love as deep as the ocean that drowns all my sins, all my lacks of obedience, and all my frustrations.  If He can love someone like me, surely I can love anyone He decides to put in my path.  And because He loves you, you can open that pipeline and love others as well. 



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