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Love Your Neighbor

The Voice of Zion October 2019 --

God created us. All of us humans are part of God’s creation work. God gives each of us a time and a place to live. We can’t choose our time of birth, where we’re born, our culture, our country, our family. We build our lives upon the blessings God gives and trust in His guidance.

Each person created by God in His image and redeemed by Christ has equal human value. To God, each of His creations is a valuable, unique individual. We look different, we have different natures, we have different gifts. These differences reflect the richness of God’s creation work.

We live in a world with many values. In all times, including the present moment, the surrounding culture with its array of values has an effect on believers’ lives as well. We view how others – both those who believe like us and those who believe differently – live their lives and we sense what values guide the decisions they make. In turn, we reflect and evaluate our own lives based on what we see around us. We compare and contrast. We draw conclusions about other people based on how they speak or how they dress or what kind of car they drive. We make assumptions based on what circles others move in, how often they attend services and how they appear to spend their free time.

We shouldn’t be hasty in drawing conclusions about others, categorizing them and labeling them. We do not know what thoughts, beliefs, experiences, joys and sorrows, gains and losses guide another person’s behavior and life choices. When we encounter those who live another life style or come from another culture or who appear to believe differently, it helps us remember that we are not all clones of each other. Nonetheless, we are all God’s creations. We all own an undying soul. We recall Jesus’ Great Commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourselves.

It is especially important to remember that the saving message of grace is meant for all people. When we see a lifestyle that is not according to God’s word, we can feel free to believe as we believe and still love our neighbor. We show love to the person, not the lifestyle. Each of us in our own way, through our own example, through the love we give, can be extending an invitation to those who are not partakers of God’s grace. How can we do this in our daily lives?

We can maintain open, friendly communication with all people. We can act in ways that invite rather than pushing away. We can avoid judging others: our attitudes are often more visible than we think and can erect thick boundaries. Instead of judging, we can lovingly speak of the dangers of living contrary to how God’s Word teaches. We can encourage others to live according to God’s will and support them in their endeavor to do so. We can invite them to join us at church services and other events of God’s children.

We may sometimes feel that faith is something that is accepted only by those who have believed before. However, we don’t know God’s plan for any particular human being. God, in His goodness, may choose to use you or me as a messenger, a vessel of His love, as a mouthpiece to speak the saving words of the gospel. God may choose us to help those who have found the treasure of living faith learn more about what it means to live in these times as a believer. Often the way we live our own lives and treat and talk about other people is a powerful lesson to others.

When the gospel of forgiveness of sins is preached and the gift of faith is born in a person’s heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, then a spiritual bond – the communion of saints – is formed between God’s children. You can read more about this in the second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. New believers are filled with the joy of believing, the relief they feel to know their sins are forgiven and their names are in the Book of Life. Our hearts join in this joy, and we believe the joy is felt in heaven as well.

God’s congregation is the community of saints, believing people. The congregation is our mother, and God is our Father. Christ is the head of the congregation. His work continues through the Holy Spirit. When we attend services, we hear what the spirit speaks to the congregation. Our faith is strengthened and our understanding clears. Love is a fruit of faith, and we show this love to our neighbors.

All of this is a gift from God, not something we have created or earned. The world doesn’t see it or understand it, but some people sense it. Some might long for it. If someone asks about it, or longs to have what you have, freely answer with the words that God gives you.

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