The phrase “Love thy neighbor” gets tossed around somewhat frequently and is quite often misrepresented by those with an underlying agenda. One recent example found the Vice-President overtly weaponizing the term to marginalize the unvaccinated. Regardless of a person’s reasoning or intent behind their choice to vaccinate or not – it was made clear – if you remain unvaccinated you obviously do not love your neighbor. You can read our take on that example here Autocratic Gaslighting.
This represents one of many misapplications of biblical terms and phrases in order to support an agenda yet it happens inside and outside the church with unfortunate frequency. If we choose to select specific bible verses, we have a responsibility, as a believer in the Word, to bring it forth with clarity and within the proper context. Often times non-believers will delve into the scriptures in an effort to expose perceived hypocrisies or other contradictions with the ultimate goal of discrediting an individual, organization, or the Bible itself. It’s nothing new by any stretch – this fallen world screams for tolerance – yet displays zero tolerance to those that disagree with their agenda. In similar fashion, some progressive groups rant against systemic racism – then display unmitigated reverse-racism and bigotry in their attacks on others. Double-dealing duplicity at its finest with apparently no regard for seeking actual solutions.
Let’s take a brief moment to explore the term “Love Thy Neighbor.” In so doing, we will clarify the context and applications, followed with a true challenge to see how closely you can adhere to this term – whether you identify as a believer in Christ or not. It’s one thing to express the term, love thy neighbor, or similar expressions extolling tolerance and acceptance, but many never find a way to bridge the gap between expression versus practical application. When hatred and vengeance are driving the narrative, the calls for love, tolerance and acceptance become meaningless drivel added to the massive unintelligible abyss whose contributors are nothing more than disingenuous dilettantes.
It sounds easy enough when you call for everyone to love one another, but if you don’t truly understand the concept of love from a biblical standpoint, you miss the point entirely. That is what becomes so very common when a lost world that has rejected God picks up the Bible to command that we love one another as we love ourselves. In their version of love it often becomes merged with the concepts of tolerance and acceptance. This is where it all goes off the rails and leads to confusion resulting in nothing more than a misappropriation of ideals shoved down our proverbial throats.
The love of God is uniquely described by C.S. Lewis as you will read further in this message as a charitable love that reaches the highest distinctions of sacrifice and mercy. God is love, as our heavenly Father, and it is very important to understand why we are given this paternal reference in our spiritual relationship to the Creator. Being the perfect Father to mankind, God does not lay out boundaries, laws, and guidelines in order to punish us – to the contrary, as with any good parent, He knows the traps that await us and directs us away from those things that will ultimately destroy our souls should we choose certain paths in life. This is an all-encompassing love, a sacrificial selfless love – knowing we are born into a sinful and fallen world – this love provides redemption through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice that is accompanied by God’s written Word that guides us through life with protections built in so that we may avoid the destructive and damaging consequences of our own sinful nature.
This recipe of tolerance and acceptance mixed with a blend of “biblical love” – often accompanied by the other widely misused passages of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 – leads many inside and outside of the church, those that do not understand God’s nature or His Word, down a dark path of compromise that might seem right on the surface but only leads to destruction.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Without a true knowledge and understanding of God’s love, those that cherry-pick verses in an exercise of self-serving justification, risk their very being in the process. How many times has a non-believer tried to guilt or shame Christians by referencing these verses, misrepresenting the portion that love “keeps no record of wrongs” while ignoring the follow-up that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Love becomes weaponized as a justification to allow for the pursuit of all pleasures without boundaries and emboldens those that hate God to try and shut down the influence of good over evil.
This mixed messaging, the co-opting of scripture for self-serving purposes, has found its way inside the church and those that should be leaders in the faith are buying into this desire to appear all inclusive and all loving – which is nothing more than choosing popularity over purpose. Certainly it is not an easy path to resist compromise, but more than ever, the lost in this evil world need to hear the Truth if they are to have any chance at finding redemption and learning what God’s true love is all about. Churches all across the globe are falling into the dangerous trap of compromise, or to use today’s vernacular – “becoming woke” – but they have no excuse, they have been warned. Paul laid out the dire warnings in his writings to Timothy.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
This is so prevalent in our world today, all the descriptors exist in our society, and more people, just like the example shared earlier of our vice-president quoting the bible, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” The warning is clear, turn away from such people, yet many can’t resist and embrace these twisted theologies developed to serve a godless society.
What is love?
In his radio broadcasts on the BBC in the late 1950s, later transcribed into a book titled The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis shared his philosophical and theological differentiation of what he categorized as the four types of love: Friendship, Affection, Eros, and Charity. He identified Affection, Friendship, and Eros as “natural” loves, while Charity was given a higher distinction of love that is defined by the maxim “God is love” – the premise that underlies all of his arguments. While outlining the benefits and potential dangers found within each type, he demonstrated how they illuminate distinct aspects of God’s character.
The topic of love becomes quite detailed and complicated as Lewis divides and separates “likes” from “loves.” Further distinction is applied as “need-loves,” such as how an infant needs it mother, to “gift-loves” which are free from need or reciprocity, and “appreciative love” that represents an admiration for a feeling of aesthetic or physical qualities. He gives an example of a cool breeze on a hot day, whereby an individual might have a great appreciation for the breeze although it is lacking of any inherent quality apart from that particular moment.
In moving beyond semantics, Lewis dissects Charity, which he values as the ultimate distillation of God’s love manifested in the world. He submits the position that God’s Charity “is what caused him to create the world upon which his children could grow, learn, flourish, and perfect themselves.” The entirety of the book is seen by many as a practical guide to living a better, more charitable life, or as one peer review stated, “a pure intellectual exercise as Lewis follows his reasoning as far as he is able. It contains much of value for people of faith and non-believers alike.”
Love is mostly defined in human terms as an emotion, yet the Bible demonstrates a love that transcends emotions and feelings by ascribing sacrificial actions. Jesus said the following,
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
While most of us would never be called to such a level of sacrifice it shows how high the bar is set in defining the love that God demonstrates to us, His creation, along with the expectation for our love towards others. Believers are compelled to show unconditional love to our neighbors – the same love that Jesus extended to us in laying down His very life on our behalf – and reinforced when he stated the following:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” John 13:34
In studying the Bible, we see that “love thy neighbor as yourself” was first decreed in the old testament. In Leviticus chapter 19, God commanded Moses to instruct the Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In this context it was understood that neighbor referred to their fellow Israelites. During Jesus ministry on earth, he expanded the definition beyond the Jews in responding to queries and related challenges to the law and scripture.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
“Who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29
At this point, Jesus laid it out in no uncertain terms and once again we are reminded, as believers, the standard is set very high. He made his point by sharing the parable of the good Samaritan, but it helps to understand the backdrop of this narrative to fully appreciate the practical application it brings forth. Samaritans in that time were despised in all neighboring regions, seen as heretics for worshiping idols and for their mixed-ethnicity and perceived ignorance. In today’s terminology they would be considered “deplorables.”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do thou likewise.” Luke 10:30-37
Examine these words closely – this self-righteous jurist posed the question thinking to justify himself – but Jesus gives the example through a parable and then with great precision turns the question around, “so which of these three do you think was neighbor to him…?” In so doing, the question became who proved he was the good neighbor by his actions? The obvious answer is he that showed mercy and kindness to a stranger in need. The call is to all believers from our Lord – “Go, and do thou likewise.” We are all neighbors and we see that biblical love is an extension of grace, a life of humble compassion and putting others needs ahead of oneself. This is what it means to love others, our neighbors, as ourselves.
The act of complete love is Jesus Christ who laid down his life for his friends. Even in his final hours, we see Christ, in preparation for the last supper, demonstrating a level of humble servitude as he got down on his knees and washed the feet of his own disciples. Jesus, the true Son of God, showing his mercy and love for all mankind on bended knee.
We’ve explored the theme and definitions surrounding and embedded in the phrase “love thy neighbor.” So I challenge you to put that knowledge into action – just as we’ve seen in these biblical examples of love. Earlier this week it was reported in the news that a comedienne known for some extreme antics has been diagnosed with lung cancer. In an interview to discuss her unfortunate diagnosis, Kathy Griffin revealed that she would soon have major surgery to remove a large portion of one lung and would possibly face additional treatments in hopes of overcoming this grave illness.
As shocking as this picture is, I share it here for a reason, and I pose this question to you. Is Kathy Griffin your neighbor?
Kathy Griffin’s now infamous photo from 2017 with the bloodied head of a US President caused quite a storm of controversy. However, she didn’t stop there, later tweeting a vile and curse riddled tirade at the President’s wife. Then came the backlash in which she herself described the pain of losing friends and work. She even detailed her descent into addiction that finally led to an attempt at suicide.
God loves Kathy Griffin – and how do I know that?
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Like most of you reading this message, I don’t know Kathy Griffin, but I was taken aback by the photo and her attacks on the First Lady which were by most standards vile and disgusting. She later apologized but then rescinded the apology and continued down the same path, even re-tweeting the photo in 2020. But in this very public moment, as she has opened up about her cancer diagnosis, along with her struggles with addiction and the attempted suicide, I believe we have an opportunity to be her neighbor.
I call on you to join with me, to rise up to the calling from Christ, and take a moment today to lift up our neighbor, Kathy Griffin, in prayer. Let’s pray for her surgery and any follow up treatments – that she will experience a full and swift recovery – and will beat the disease of cancer. Let’s also pray for her mental healing from the darkness she has faced in her own life and ask that God’s mercy will be extended to her in every possible way. Let us also pray for her salvation, if she has not accepted Christ, that she will come to that place of redemption and will accept the gift of forgiveness that is offered to all that seek God. We are called to resist the urge to condemn her and to the contrary we have a chance to demonstrate the love of Christ that we have come to know by lifting her up in this time of great need. We as believers are all called to a higher standard, to share the love of Jesus in this lost world, with gentleness and grace, not compromising the Word, but showing what redemption means in our lives as we acknowledge our own shortcomings. By God’s mercy and amazing grace – through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ – we are redeemed. Share that love – the true love of God – anywhere and everywhere.
May we all continue to grow in our faith and demonstrate what it means as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you know Christ and have made that profession of faith, please consider joining us in sharing that love with others. Through this link you can simply write, “I want to share my faith with my neighbors” and we will send you our free business-sized ministry cards to help in your efforts. Remember to include your mailing address along with your request. Prayer Requests, Questions, Comments
If you have never experienced the true love of Jesus Christ – I want to personally encourage you to read this message – Pathway to Salvation – then reach out to us with any questions you may have Prayer Requests, Questions, Comments Time is short – today is your best opportunity to change your life for eternity.
God Bless you for visiting our site and reading our messages. We hope you will come back often and share our site with others.
John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry