Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Someone once told me – “I just want to see the best in people.” That phrase lingered in my heart because conceptually I could understand it, but spiritually, I couldn’t align with it. Loving one another the way God loves us isn’t a love found in ignorance; it’s one found in truth. I know that’s how deep God’s love is for us. He sees us as we are, where we are… and He chooses to love us anyway. There is something profound about that type of love. It’s rooted in honesty and genuineness, and truthfully, it’s the kind of love we crave the most.
A lot of our “neighbors” are suffering in silence. Whether they be friends, strangers, church members, or coworkers, people need a safe space to be honest and truthful. The mask can’t be worn forever. We’re flawed, and in our imperfection, it’s comforting to know that there are people willing to listen without judgement and give advice without condemnation.
There is power in releasing the burdens that we have carried, while letting people see the parts of us that bring embarrassment, pain, or shame. To be vulnerable is a brave choice, and to love your neighbor means that we honor that choice. For those of us on the receiving side, we are called to be present with them, and to prove ourselves trustworthy. This action removes the undue pressure to show a type of perfection that we aren’t living, allowing us to be real with one another – in the bad, but also in the good.
The Importance of Loving Your Neighbor
Fun fact. We often attribute the concept of loving your neighbor to Jesus in the New Testament, but the first time this edict was given, was actually by God to the Israelites in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:18:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
The New Testament mirrors this sentiment, as the principles found in both the Old & New Testament remain the same. So in Matthew 22, when the Sadducees asked Jesus, which commandment was the greatest:
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
These two commandments sum up the 10 commandments. The first four out of ten correlate to loving the Lord with all your heart. The last six out of ten speak to loving your neighbor as yourself. In these commandments, God is asking us to embrace the power of love. By learning to love God, we also learn to love ourselves in a greater capacity. We make choices that are healthy for our physical and mental well-being, as well as our time here on Earth. Christ calls us to then pass that love onto others – learning to show what we desire to experience. To do that takes a level of selflessness and humility that can only come from God.
Understanding God’s Concept of Love
I Corinthians 13:4-7 is probably the most quoted scripture on the definition of love. It reads:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
If we first think about this scripture as it relates to loving ourselves, we might need to be a bit kinder to self. We may need to more patient, and a little less focused on what others have that we do not. Our characters matter as do our thoughts. In God’s strength, we can learn how to submit to His will. We won’t hide from the parts of ourselves that need to change or for the storms we must go through. Each day, if we open ourselves up more and more to God’s love, we will experience the gift of loving ourselves more deeply. In our imperfection, I am thankful God is still willing to craft us in His perfection.
Rejoicing in Truth
Yet this journey is not just about self. God calls us to be a good neighbor to any and everyone around us. A part of being able to do this requires us to rejoice in truth. Seeing the darkest corners of people can be overwhelming. Depending on what you experience or find out, your relationship with them may be forever changed. Sometimes – that’s needed. We may have to endure the sadness that comes as our opinions of people shift. Nevertheless, no matter the situation, we should remain Christlike in the way we treat others. This is the balance of accountability and grace.
We aren’t spiritually called to see the best in people, nor are we called to see the worst. Instead, God asks us to meet people where they are and offer them the grace that we so desperately seek from Him. Someone once told me – if I don’t know, then I’m not responsible. Woeful ignorance is not love. In this scenario, which “neighbor” are you loving? Selfishly, only yourself.
Love’s an action. It’s something we do more than something we feel. One way to show it, is by embracing the truth. It’s a gift we can give others that builds trust while providing a sense of relief. None of us are perfect, but with God’s love, we can all grow a littler closer to the goal.Print This Devotional