Jesus gave us a long list of actions which are completely opposite what the world tells us to do:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
We are unable to do that by ourselves, and the Bible is filled with stories of God’s people failing when they fail to follow His commands. An early church orator, Stephen, preached a sermon to the Jewish leaders of his time which underscored the utter depravity of the Jewish people (Acts 7:1-54). His reward was death. As Stephen was dying, he showed us the second greatest commandment in action.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60 (ESV)
Did you happen to notice who was present (verse 58)? Could you have given the same statement as Stephen (v. 60) as you breathed your final breaths? Why do you think that the leaders were so angry? Could it be that they were feeling convicted and didn’t want to hear the truth? We feel the same today. It’s nicer to listen to a “feel good” sermon than to listen to an expository sermon where truths are given in no uncertain terms. But Jesus expects us to hear every command in His Word – and to obey. When we fall, He’s there to pick us up.
I think that this love your neighbor command is one of the more difficult to obey. It’s one I work on all the time. When I get it right, I stop to praise God and pray that I don’t fall into the sin of pride because of my “good behavior”. When I get it wrong, I know that God is there to forgive me, pick me up, and help me to carry on.
What is love? It’s an act of your will. It’s hard work. It’s meeting the needs of those around us. It’s wrapped up in this simple verse:
These things I command you, that ye love one another. John 15:17 (KJV)
I’d love to hear how this study is helping you. Where have you achieved success in the second greatest commandment? Where do you fall short? Do you need special prayer, or someone to talk to? Leave a message or email me privately. I look forward to hearing how God uses this study to improve your daily walk.
I will see you Monday!