Sep 29th, 2019
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 45 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 9 minutes or so we are going to talk about loving our neighbor. We’ve covered this before, but without really needing to say it, this is a topic that can’t be overstated.
In Galatians 5:14 Paul wrote, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then the Message translation finishes off the verse with, “That is an act of true freedom."
I really like that idea expressed there that loving your neighbor as yourself is an act of true freedom. I want to take a moment to talk about the word translated as "neighbor" there. In the original it’s:
G4139 πλησίον plēsion play-see'-on Neuter of a derivative of πέλας pelas (near); (adverb) close by; as noun, a neighbor, that is, fellow (as man, countryman, Christian or friend): - near, neighbour.
It means near to you or close by. It's not necessarily how we use the word neighbor in modern English, but it's literally everybody around you wherever you find yourself.
We find similar language, but with a slightly different idea expressed in the law given to the Israelites in Leviticus 19:17-18. In it The Lord says, "Do not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself"
I want to take a minute to dissect that a little bit because I've seen Scriptures like this used as an excuse to violently confront those who haven't put their faith in Christ about their sins. But that's not what this scripture is saying and I'm hard-pressed to find any scriptures that would lead me personally to head out on the street with a microphone and broadcast accusations of sin on passersby who really need the message from John 3:17 that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. He came because He loves us.
"Do not harbor hatred against your brother,” that “brother” there is the word:
H251 אָח 'âch awkh A primitive word; a brother (used in the widest sense of literal relationship and metaphorical affinity or resemblance (like H1)): - another, brother (-ly), kindred, like, other. Compare also the proper names beginning with “Ah-” or “Ahi-”.
It's brother or kindred, in context it's telling the Israelites that this is specifically concerning other Israelites. The modern equivalent for Christians would be other Christians. "Don't harbor hate for other Christians. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of them."
There’s that word neighbor again, but not in a Greek sense like we read earlier, and certainly not like we use it today. This is the Hebrew word:
עָמִית ‛âmı̂yth aw-meeth' From a primitive root meaning to associate; companionship; hence (concretely) a comrade or kindred man: - another, fellow, neighbour.
This is talking about someone you're in companionship with, a comrade, or a kindred fellow. Today we would say, fellow believer. So with that a modern equivalent applied to our Christian life of this verse in Leviticus 19 would read something like, "Don’t harbor hate for other Christians. Rebuke your fellow believer directly, and you will not incur guilt because of them."
The way we as believers rebuke each other is found in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.” I want to take a second to say that this can be applied to sinning period. They don't have to offend you personally. Because we're all in his family of believers together, we have the right to approach each other and to help each other live the best Christian lives we can. Getting back to the scripture, it says, "If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.”
So it's an act of love between believers to not keep secret offense between you and to confront that sin in each other's lives. If you don't love your fellow believer enough to confront the imperfections in their lives that may be blocking the blessing and prosperity in their life then you don't truly love them. What about unbelievers though? I like how the amplified puts it in James 2:8, it says, "If, however, you are [really] fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, if you have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit]” you are doing well." That's that Greek word for neighbor that we talked about earlier meaning everyone around you. It doesn't talk here about confronting sin in their lives.
I'm not ignoring the fact that Jesus confronted sin a lot in the bible. In fact, I'm very aware that Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and the other pillars of our faith did an excellent job of upholding Leviticus 19 that tells Israelites to confront the sin in other Israelites lives. They even did an excellent job of confronting sin in the lives of other believers. What you won't find in the scriptures, however, is any of them confronting sin in the lives of those who weren't Jewish or believers in Christ. Paul went as far as to say in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13a, “For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders.”
Some have used scriptures like this and “Do not judge lest you be judged” to say that Christians aren’t allowed to make judgment calls about anything or anyone. Because we’re not allowed to judge outsiders, or we can’t judges or we’ll be judged. But, come on, we’re living normal lives and we’re allowed to live as normal people and make normal judgment calls about whether or not we’re going to trust someone, do business with someone, take the word of someone. Let’s just be practical.
Scripturally, as far as judging sin, judging unbelievers, we're left with doing things for others benefit to show them love. Think of ways to really bless unbelievers in a way that gets you nothing back. Let that open the door to their heart and let the Holy Spirit take over from there and handle the conviction side of things. This doesn't just apply to our literal neighbor, or the folks at work, or in the apartment complex. It’s people you live with, people at the store, people you go to church with, people you see in classes, people you drive by on the side of the road. It’s everyone wherever you are.
I encourage you to really put some thought into what you can do to unselfishly love those around you everywhere that you are. Once you've picked something, once you've decided what you can do recruit some other Christians and motivate them into some acts of Love and Good Works. That's what we read in Hebrews 10 right? That we're supposed to be motivating each other to acts of Love and Good Works. So let's do that. Let's go out there and love on those people who need good news, who need the gospel, who need to know that Jesus didn’t come to condemn them, but because He loves them.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”