To Love Your Neighbor, you have to First Love God

I have often seen a meme that argues:

I think we forget that when Jesus said, ‘love your neighbor,’ he meant your:

The person you are mad at
Your waitress/waiter
Your ex
Immigrant neighbor

God loves everyone, not just those whom you get along with.

Next, an observation and a statement. Scripturally you cannot separate Love of God from Love of Neighbor – the two are inextricably tied together. So, the assumption has to be that whomever posts such a meme or statement then they are announcing themselves as lovers of God. Jesus said, ‘if you love me keep my commandments’ – John 14.15. Jesus is the Son of God, the very essence of the God of the Universe, the God of Abraham, the God found in the TaNaK and the NT. I am hoping that those who post these recognize how the love of some people is to be expressed.

For the ‘gay’ neighbor, the best expression of love is not to embrace or endorse their lifestyle because it is against God’s clear commandment. The best expression of love is to get them to recognize that it is a disorder and sin in God’s eyes and they need to turn from it.

Similarly, with the ‘atheist’ neighbor. Love them but point out to them that there is indeed a God, one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. It is not an expression of love to affirm someone in a direction that will condemn them for eternity. Love is pointing them to the God of the Universe and his love and provision for their salvation.

So too for the ‘Muslim’ neighbor. They need to know that Jesus, not Mohammed, is the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through’ Jesus. Again, love does not affirm error but truth.

It is a wonderful thing to remind each other of whom our neighbor is and to enjoin us to love them. It is a more wonderful thing to Love God and make our love of God and his ways the source of our love of our neighbor. Our proper expression of that love is in light of how God would have each of us live as his children.

Love God . . . Love Your Neighbor

1 John. 2:3-6 NAU By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Always a measuring rod for those who claim that they ‘love Jesus’ and even more so of late given tectonic shifting in cultural morals, specifically the homosexual issue and the church today. The Roman church is bumping hard into this issue and is on the verge of a serious bifurcation of their constituents. Very many churches have acquiesced completely and have embraced the LGBTQ community in its entirety and declared that position as fully in line with their view of the teachings of Jesus. Other churches are struggling with the issue as it is so prevalent in today’s society and have very often come down in the middle of the road not wanting to offend anyone but not willing to divorce themselves entirely from what they read in the book the acknowledge as God’s Word.

In Ross Douthat’s book evaluating the future of Roman Catholicism in light of the Francis Papacy, To Change the Church, he makes an observation that is vital to understanding the dichotomy on this issue among those who claim Christ and yet so very much disagree.

He makes the observation that many people are basing their moral leaning and position on ‘Jesus’, but not the Jesus as reflected in the actual words of the Bible but the ‘Jesus’ of their imaginings, the Jesus who ‘loves everyone’ with no reference whatsoever to moral principles, commandments and guidance found in the Bible. In that view there is very little reference to sexual morality or immorality, especially to the point of saying, ‘this life style is wrong’ or ‘this life style is clearly condemned by the Bible.’ Very often such is dismissed by calling the teaching anachronistic or saying that we have ‘evolved morally’ from such narrow and condemnatory moralizing. He notes that there remain those who do indeed see the Bible as the very Word of God and The Book whose guidelines need to be read, observed, studied, and adhered to. And I would add, especially if one, in the words of John, would say, ‘I have come to know him.’

Now, to clarify before we look at what the Bible says let me lay aside some objections and misdirections. The issue here is the acceptance and embrace and advocacy of a lifestyle. The issue is not on those who, while practicing the lifestyle, do in fact recognize it as against God’s Will and teaching and are ashamed of their failure and repent of it. So too we will not be talking about other ‘sins’ folks commit that can put them in the class of ‘hypocrite,’ that is another issue and discussion but one too often brought up to counter any condemnation of any particular sin, specifically homosexuality. And yes, there are other sins that deserve condemnation in the same breath and many times to the same degree but do not get mentioned by those more specifically condemning homosexuality. Our focus for this discussion is specific and more so in that it has turned into a major moral, religious, and political (read ‘rights’) issue that has resulted in many in the ‘church’ fully embracing and advocating it despite what will be shown below. So too this will not be a weighing of moral issues, an attempt to find some issues that might be embraced because they are referenced so infrequently. It normally pops up with ‘well Jesus said nothing about xxx’, a position that is left to argue that Jesus would have nothing to do with either Moses or Paul and that which is sin is only that which we see written as the very and only words of Jesus. The NT is clear that Jesus fully endorsed the teachings of the TNK/OT and that Paul had a clear understanding of what Jesus did teach and he himself taught that faithfully.

Now, what does the Bible teach about homosexual relationships? This will not be exhaustive, but it should suffice as enough.

Leviticus 18.22 is the clearest. In it is written, “with a male you shall not lie as is done with a woman, it is an abomination.” This is repeated and expanded in 20.13 where the death penalty is appended.

Paul repeats this command in Romans 1.26-28 and makes it clear that both genders are to be condemned in this sexual sin.

But what does Jesus say? In Matthew 5.18 he says, “”For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter (jot/yodh) or stroke (tiddle) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NAU). It is written in John 14.15 that he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Too often this last statement all too often reduces his “commandments” (notice the plural) to “love everyone” with absolutely no qualifiers.

So then, some people will say, “but Jesus never addressed homosexuality directly and specifically” but neither did he directly and specifically address pedophilia or bestiality or nuclear war or any number of things that people will not hesitate to declare a sin against God despite it not being specifically identified and condemned. As an aside, I don’t think we have yet reached the point (we may in the future the way things are going) where bestiality is embraced and folks who are all for homosexual relations in a Christian context will condemn lying with an animal and I could see them suggesting that Jesus would agree, but Leviticus 18 condemns it in the very verse that follows the condemnation of homosexuality. People are left with embracing one but condemning the other even when the Bible clearly presents them in the closest terms as gross immoralities.

We can all acknowledge that the Christian walk is often pockmarked with failures and slips into sin or even a sinful lifestyle. But a true Christian walk is one that acknowledges that, confesses it, and strives mightily to avoid that. A true Christian walk is not one that wholly and completely embraces that which the Bible, God’s Word, clearly and strongly condemns and identifies as not being of him at all. A Christian walk also does not teach others that such a lifestyle is completely in line with what God and Jesus desire and smile upon. It is a walking away from God, and not toward him. And to delude oneself into thinking that God approves of it is evidence that God’s Word has not been read and studied and has been set aside and ignored. Such turns a person’s ‘Christian walk’ into a lie. You cannot say, “I love Jesus” and flaunt a lifestyle that goes completely against what he teaches. John condemned such thinking as a lie and as very dangerous to yourself and others who would follow you example.