Loving God and Neighbor

Bob RoaneCounseling, Jesus Christ, Wise living

Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we know we know without any doubt that you have come from God as a teacher and God is with you.” Jesus said, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” (John 3:12; 13:13)

Sitting at Jesus’ Feet

One day Christ and His disciples visited the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to His teaching. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations for the meal and was annoyed at her sister for not helping. Jesus corrected her gently saying, “You are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”1 Mary gave undivided attention to trusting and obeying the Lord and receiving the blessings of His kingdom. Serving Christ and other people is important, but learning from Him needs top priority.

In a recent prison class, we studied Jesus as the Master Teacher. These notes on “Learning from Christ” are expanded from that class.

Christ Teaches us to Love God (Father, Son, and Spirit) with All That We Are

Scripture: Mark 12:29-30 “The most important commandment, answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Comments: The Jewish rabbis counted 613 commandments in the Books of Moses. 248 were positive commands and 365 were prohibitions. They considered some to be lighter (smaller) and some weightier (greater). So someone asked Jesus, “What is the central idea in God’s Law on which all the individual commands depend?”

Christ answered so wisely. God is love in His very nature and essence. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit love each other perfectly and eternally. He also loves the world as a whole and individuals in it, in spite of our sinfulness and corruption. God’s love for His creatures shows itself in supplying all our needs and most of all in sending His Son to be the Savior of all who repent and believe on Him. Jesus’ followers are assured that nothing can separate us from His amazing and undeserved love. And God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Spirit, who has been given to us. So loving God who first loved us is vital. Scripture says: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!”2

When we love God with our whole selves, everything else falls into place. When we love other things or people more than we love the Lord, everything goes wrong. All sins and troubles flow from not loving God most of all.

Fanny Crosby

Frances “Fanny” Crosby (1820-1915) was one of the most prolific songwriters in the history of Christianity who wrote over 8,000 hymns. Crosby was blinded in both eyes at six weeks of age through a medical error. However, by faith, she still visualized the beauty of Christ and His blessings, often with more clarity than people who had physical eyesight. One of her hymns goes like this:

To God be the glory, great things He has done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that we may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done!

By God’s grace, Fanny Crosby fixed her spiritual eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and she loved Him who had first loved her. Lord, help us do the same.

Christ Teaches us to Love Our Neighbors

Scripture: Mark 12:31 “The second greatest commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Quoting Leviticus 19:18)

Comments: Loving God is not to be separated from our other relationships in life, so Jesus joins the command to love God with the command to love other people. This command is repeated often in the New Testament.3 The Apostle John taught that those who do not show love to others cannot claim honestly to love God.4 We naturally love, care for, and do many things for ourselves. We love others by considering their needs above our comforts. This is a hard for our selfish selves, but it is essential for Christ’s followers.5

In Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, He teaches us who our neighbor is. Rather than limiting our love to a narrow circle, Christ calls us to be a neighbor to people who need help. Rather than assessing others too rigorously, the Lord changes our hearts to make us capable of loving them and inconveniencing ourselves to help them.

Rescuing Others

In 2021, Anthony Brown was driving across a bridge near Asheville, NC when he spotted a stranger preparing to commit suicide. Brown had lost his brother to suicide, so he couldn’t ignore this depressed stranger. Others drove by without stopping, but Brown quickly pulled over and gently approached the man. When he opened up about his brother, the demoralized man listened. Brown said, “I let him know that I was not there to judge him and that I cared for him. He was shocked that a stranger stopped and was concerned about his well-being.” In time the desperate man retreated from the edge of the bridge and was taken to a hospital. Brown said, “I told the distressed man that it was not his time to die yet and that God had bigger plans for him.”6

Jesus’ half-brother James wrote: “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”7

Most of the people who need our help will not have such drastic needs. Others may just need us to smile and be friendly to them, teach them a skill that we know, listen to and encourage them in their grief, suffering, or sadness, help them with a chore or action item, bring or buy them a meal, or physically be there with them in their troubles as a tangible reminder of Christ’s invisible presence with us. Scripture says: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”8

To be continued

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Luke 10:10:38-42.     2 1 John 4:7-21; John 3:16; Gal 2:20; Rom 5:1-11; Eph 2:4-5; Acts 14:17; Rom 8:31-39; 1 Cor 16:22.     3 Rom 13:10; 15:1-2; Gal 5:14; James 2:8.     4 1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-21.     5 Phil 2:1-11; 1 John 4:19-5:4.     6 Louise Bevan, “Passerby Talks Suicidal Man Down From Edge of Bridge: ‘I Wasn’t There to Judge Him’,” Epoch Times (3-29-21).     7 James 5:19-20.     8 1 John 3:18.