How is Loving My Neighbor an Oblitunity?
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:35-39 ESV)
When what I have to do is what I want to do, it’s an oblitunity. The goal is not to go out and dutifully be kind to people while seething with hatred toward them inside. Our hearts need to change toward people. Real people. We need to actually love the real flawed people around us, not theoretical ones.
I’ve seen on-the-street interviews with the protesters during this whole immigration debate. They are holding up signs welcoming people into our country. “Would you have a refugee in your home?” Astonishingly, many say no. It’s pure ideology with no application. That’s the challenge. It’s easy to hold to a theoretical ideal; it’s much harder to personally love people sacrificially. We always want other people to do that.
Jesus’ words hold the key. Love God. Love people. Loving our neighbor is taking that vertical love for God and applying it to the actual people around us.
- When we love difficult people, we reflect God’s love for difficult people (us).
- When we give ourselves to needy people, we reflect God’s love for needy people (us).
- When we bear with the offensive people, we reflect God’s bearing of sinful people (us).
We don’t have to manufacture some love from somewhere. We love them as God has loved us. The reason that loving others is an oblitunity is that yes, we are required to do it, but loving others with God’s love is what produces the most meaningful moments in our lives.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Last summer my small group did a debrief on the year prior. I asked everybody to share what their favorite thing was from our small group from the previous year—all the times spent together, the discussions, everything. You know what everybody said? Serving dinner at EPIC Youth night at our Gary campus. That Thanksgiving we all pitched in and fed a turkey and trimmings meal to the young people. Everyone said that was great.
How about you? What stands out to you as the most meaningful moments from this last year? Was it something you received? Or was it something you gave to someone else?
Back in my single days I’d be asked occasionally to speak at singles gatherings or retreats. I’d often talk about loneliness, which is a massive struggle for single adults. What I told them based on my own experience was, you want to get rid of your loneliness? Serve others in some sacrificial way and over time you will forget where you put your loneliness.
Loving our neighbor is pure oblitunity when we realize that this command is a grace from God. He wants to keep us from all the self-obsession and self-destruction not loving others will create. Who is harmed by self-love? We are. The most miserable person here today is likely not particularly known for serving others. So God commands a path to personal fulfillment that also reflects his own joy in loving and serving his neighbor.
The greatest neighbor any of us have ever had was Jesus. He loved his neighbor as himself. He came to this world and died for his neighbors. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
What difficult or inconvenient person might God be calling you to love? Up to this point you’ve only viewed it as “obli.” Perhaps God will speak to you today and help you see it as “tunity.” Not doing love but being loving. Not finding my neighbor and loving her but being neighborly to whomever God brings across my path.
There are two great oblitunities: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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