In this simple command, Jesus gives a bold way of life for His would-be followers.
1. Jesus doesn’t say “like” your neighbors but love them. There is a distinctive difference isn’t there? Love is unconditional, right? Well, God’s love that is. Jesus is talking about a life-altering way of living here when He tells us to love our neighbors because these may very well be people we don’t “like”. Maybe these are people we wouldn’t normally “break bread” with in a normal given day, nonetheless we are commanded to love them. These could be people that don’t look like us, shop where we shop or even speak our “love language”. Love for a Christ-follower is the bedrock upon all of which we do is built upon.
Liking people has to do with feelings…loving them has to do with actions. Jesus doesn’t ask if it’s easy or if we “like” it or not…He simply says this is the way it must be for for those who seek His Kingdom because in His Kingdom, there is only real unconditional love. Ultimately, it’s not about whether we like someone else or not; it’s really a question of if we love the Lord? If we love Him, we will obey Him (John 15:11-17).
2. Jesus said to love our neighbors. Even a lawyer (Luke 10) asked who was to be considered a “neighbor”? Jesus shared the story about The Good Samaritan, illustrating that one like the Samaritan who had been hated by many other groups of people, still found it in himself to show love and kindness to his neighbor, who was not like him. Our neighbors are not just those who are positioned on our streets or communities…they are people…any person…any body that is in need. Sure there are people we may more readily identify with because of a shared background however I believe Jesus is instructing us to be compassionate toward anyone who is hurting, broken and in need, not just the ones we “want” or feel like we identify with.
3. Jesus said to love in the same way we love ourselves. Why couldn’t Jesus just say love like we’ve been loved? Because let’s be honest, many haven’t been loved well by others. Then we’d have an excuse to simply treat others how we’ve been treated.
However, we all love ourselves well. We know ourselves. We cater to our wants and needs. We tend to think of ourselves first. This is what Jesus is saying…Think of someone else first! Consider someone else’s wants and needs…not just NEEDS. Love others in a way that is above and beyond instead of just “enough”.
If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you have been lavished in the love of God already (1 John 3:1). This command is for all of us who are called by His name. We are to love as we have been loved.