Christ and the Pharisees by Ernst Zimmerman

Alternate Title: Loving Your Neighbor in Lockdown

Our Need to Love

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He said, "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. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

He wasn't just making that up, either.  Deuteronomy 6 says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And Leviticus 19:18 says, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."

Notice how both of these commands hinge on who God is—on His nature, His character. It's little wonder that Jesus said that "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Our Need for Love

The bad news is that we can't love. That is, we can't love rightly. We cannot love in the sacrificial way that God has called us to love. We are born enemies of God, so we don't love Him rightly. We are born selfish and self-absorbed, so we don't love others rightly. We need to give love to others, but we don't have it—not on our own. We first need love given to us.

Here's the good news.

We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. [In fact] God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. [And God abiding in us means that there] is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence ... We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:16-21

The good news is that because God loved us, Jesus lived the perfect life in our place and took the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross. We are thus made acceptable to God—we are now made lovely. More than that, though, because Jesus came back to life, He went back to His Father and sent His Spirit. That same Spirit of love that was in Jesus is now in us! We can now love and love rightly.

This is His command, accomplished by His grace!

How to Love from a Social Distance

This brings us to the point. Because God loved us, died for us and put His love in us, we can (and must) love others! But, how do we do that from a social distance? There are actually LOTS of ways! I have listed just a few here.

How to Love Your Neighbors

  • Don't over purchase (save some for everybody else)
  • Don't go out unnecessarily (keep your distance for the full 15 days)
  • Pray for your neighbors (shout at them over the fence and find out how)
  • Share the gospel (we can have confidence that others want because fear is driven out by the love of God)
  • Drop off a pack of toilet paper on their doorstep (the ultimate act of love these days)

How to Love Your Family

  • Pray for them (and don't just assume you know how they need prayer)
  • Be patient with them (you are going to need to pray for this level of patience)
  • Point them to Christ daily (what a great time to start the habit of family devotions!)
  • Share the joy you have in Christ (don't be all mopey; be glad in the Lord)
  • Remind them of God's faithfulness (it helps our trust in God's future grace when we remember His past faithfulness)

How to Love Your Church

  • Pray for them (are you noticing a trend here?)
  • Long for them (don't get used to not seeing each other; let your heart long for them)
  • Share your testimony (few things encourage our faith like hearing how God has worked in others)
  • Send them encouragement (emails, texts, hand written notes [just after hand-washing] communicate great love)
  • Listen to them (so much of showing love is simply knowing how to listen)

As we all engage in loving each other well and showing devotion to one another from a social distance, let us not forget that this love is only possible because of the love that God has given to us, and we give it rightly as an expression of our love for Him.

May we (by the love of God) love God and love others.