This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder kicked off a new series entitled “The Upside-Down.” Over the next several weeks, we will be looking at some of the upside-down principles of the Kingdom of God that can turn our relationships right-side-up.
Ben began with the upside-down principle of loving your neighbor as yourself. While this may not seem so upside-down initially, just take a look around the world today and it becomes obvious that it may be more upside-down than we think. The Greek word for love in this case is agapao, which means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly” (blueletterbible.org). When we love like this, we value and build up another’s well-being.
This sounds all well and good, but if we are honest, our treatment of others does not always reflect this kind of love. The people in Jesus’ day found it hard as well. The following passage from Luke describes this very scenario:
25One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This lawyer wanted to see if Jesus knew his stuff. As an expert in the law, he already knew the answer. He was testing Jesus’ knowledge. After Jesus masterfully handles the conversation with wisdom and grace, the lawyer does what we all do when we feel vulnerable, he gets defensive and tries to justify his actions. Although he knew the right answer, his actions did not back it up, and he knew it.
As Ben pointed out, when we start to ask who we are to love, then our capacity to love them diminishes. Like the lawyer, we are trying to justify our own unloving actions, trying to justify who deserves our love and who doesn’t. Instead of asking “who is my neighbor?”, the better question to ask is “what does love require of me right here, right now?” In this place in this time with these people, what does loving God and loving others look like?”
Throughout the rest of the week, we will be taking a closer look at what it means to love God with our entire being and to love others as yourself. We will also look at the story of the Good Samaritan, which is the story Jesus tells the lawyer in response to his question.
Our memory verse for this series, which takes this upside-down principle even further, is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.
43You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
Have you ever found yourself justifying why you do not have to love someone? What do you think is really going on in your heart?
What is the difference between setting healthy boundaries with someone and acting in an unloving way?
Choose two people whom you normally cross paths with throughout the week and ask God to show you what love requires of you in those relationships.
God, you know my heart. You know my natural tendency to find an excuse to not love someone like I should. I do it so often without even realizing it. Holy Spirit, show me when I do this. Remind me of your love for me and the fact that you love every single human being with that same love. Forgive me for not loving with the love you’ve shown me. Give me your eyes when I look at the world, and help me to ask what love requires of me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This post was written by Rochelle Sikora, an editor and occasional contributor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.
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