Monday, July 16, 2007

That 'Love Thy Neighbor' Thing... (Part 4)

Ok, so I'm about ready to round this thing out. But first I want to dig the knife in just a little bit deeper on this subject of love. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself - those are pretty simple, right? J.O.Y. Jesus First. Others Second. Yourself Last. Mmm Hmm. Yep, it's that simple!


A "certain man" (often identified as "the rich young ruler") comes up to Jesus (beginning in Luke 18:18), asking Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus answered the man, "You know the commandments..." And He specifically mentioned five of the Ten Commandments. The man said he'd kept all those from his youth.

Pretty impressive!

However, we then see Jesus' reply to the man, and the man's ultimate response. I really believe says it all when it comes to showing all of us how far we've fallen short of loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

"You still lack one thing," Jesus said. "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me."

The man became very sorrowful.

I really don't think this all sinks in. In our lives today we see this as a simple "call" to give. Simply give some of your money away and you'll have treasure in heaven. We think that if we give a certain portion of our income to "the church" or charities, and if we volunteer our time in ministry or in helping at the soup kitchen, and if we do all kinds of things to "help others," then we've fulfilled the commandment to love our neighbors. Not that any of that stuff is "bad!" But the commandment doesn't say, "Do a lot of good things to show love to your neighbors." It says, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Agape your neighbor as you agape yourself. What does that look like? First, what does it look like if you love yourself? You do all kinds of things for yourself. You work and accumulate money so you can pay your bills and buy things for yourself. I won't get too deep into this, although it really might help to make the point - but ultimately, for yourself, you live. You do the things you do to make sure that you keep yourself alive and happy. Sure, you help others too. Maybe you've even helped others since your youth. Maybe you've done a lot to help others! But have you loved others as you've loved yourself? To fulfill this commandment, not just in part, but in full, I believe would involve selling all you have (because you've accumulated all that you have for yourself) and distributing it all to the poor (those who don't have the means to provide for themselves), and to give up your life and follow Jesus. This would be what it means to not just "do your best" at loving your neighbor, but rather to love your neighbor as yourself. Giving it all away. Forget a measly 10%!

I'd seriously like to hear from someone who has truly followed these commandments!

I'm almost to the pinnacle of the point I'm trying to make with these posts, but I hope that right now the point has been made that because of the sinful nature of those who are still in Adam, and who haven't been made into new creations by coming to faith in Jesus, and because of the flesh that leads even new creations away from the ways of the Life of the indwelling Christ, these two commandments are impossible for us to try to live by. That's right... God commanded what is impossible for us to do!

And that's the whole point of the LAW! These two commandments are part of the law. I'll get a little more into that in the next post. We've certainly "Christianized" these laws through our very weak applications of "Put God First and Others Second." But again, think about what it really means to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Previous to His encounter with the rich young ruler, Jesus had come across another man, a lawyer, who had asked Him the same question, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). There was an exchange of law talk, very similar to the conversation with the man in Luke 18. In this case, the lawyer quoted the "Big Two" laws to Jesus. Jesus told the man, "Do this and you will live," which is exactly what the Law itself said all along.

But it gets interesting. The man, "wanting to justify himself," said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Yeah, really, who is your neighbor? Is it just those you like and those you socialize with? Is it your coworkers? Is it those you get along with on your street? Those in church? Christians?

What about those who don't like you? What about those who don't treat you well? What about your "enemies?"

Jesus' answer to the lawyer probably shocked a lot of people. We all know the story. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Speaking this parable to a crowd of Jews, who most certainly understood the characters in the story, He tells them that the two people who passed by the man who had been robbed and left for dead were a priest and a Levite. But it was the sworn enemy of the Jews in that day - a Samaritan - who took care of him and provided for his well-being.

In short, I think the only definition of who your neighbor is, is "anyone and everyone."

So, as to the commandments, with further clarification from Jesus as to the depths of what they really mean, how ya doing? :)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5


  1. Very well put, Joel. I really liked this one. I remember when I first read the New Testament I was overwhelmed with all these commandments. I knew I didn't have the capacity to do these things. I failed to see what Jesus was trying to show these people and myself. The fact is, I can't do it. I need not even try. Jesus is laying such heavy loads of the law on these people so they will scream "I give up!", not so that they will try harder.

    Then, through this perspective of grace, we see a completely different God than what we previously thought.

    People killed the early church because they did not know Jesus or the Father. They accused the church of being lawless.

    If only we could grasp and receive God's love in full, then we could fly above all sin. Until then...I love seeking Him out. And this time my seeking isn't religious. It's out of a sincere desire. I want to know who He is and what He is really like. He is so much bigger than we know..

    Have a wonderful day, Joel. Very encouraging post!

  2. Matthew, you stole my thunder for the upcoming 5th and final post. LOL :) Great comments! That's exactly what I believe the Law is for, including the two "greatest commandments" that all the Law and Prophets hang upon.

    Blessings to you.

    I think Part 5 will be posted either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

  3. lol! I think you're able to articulate these things better than I can. =)

    Thanks so much for posting this clears my head of all the gunk. I'm working on ignoring my "feeler" lately, but I constantly need be reminded of stuff like this.

  4. I'm in the very same boat... I need to be reminded and "re-reminded" of the truth of God's love and grace all the time! Call it "renewing the mind." Call it "growing in grace." Whatever it's called, there's always a lot to learn and it never gets old. :)

  5. My only concern Joel is you live in Iowa...and Iowa is covered in Calvinism and Lutheran heavenly strongholds....Grace intellectuallism....and the HolySpirit gets treated like a Stepchild. avoid talking about the HolySpirit I notice. ...His Grace Gifts to equip the Saints. ....YET, on the other hand, without teaching on Grace as such, the Saints get stripped not equipped. you are a great blessing as well.....but I smell Anti-HolySpiritinism....imbalances on God equipment by Grace unto Power in Love....great teaching Joel, but like the movie Field of Dreams based in Iowa said: "Build it and he will come"....they thought he was crazy for hearing God and not staying Conservative...You are amazing as a Teacher on Grace Joel....yet you stay away from the Person that is here since Jesus left....a little too left in your Calvin was....and Luther....

  6. The wonderful thing is that the ministry that Christ does in and through me (which is the Holy Spirit in me - only not worded as such) is not dependent upon nor led by the criticisms or praises of an anonymous, faceless commentator on a blog. :) Your concerns are noted, but not necessary.

  7. They are necessary Joel to equip you to address Acts chpt2 and how Grace goes forward from There....but I must must must say that the very fact that you didn't trash my comment by not posting it and responding should show you, myself, and others that you are not on this Blog to promote the great Joel, but the Great God of the Lord Jesus! Many people, not just people in Iowa, shy away from the Holy Spirit and use Grace as a conscientious wall....yet they suffer for to my being faceless, and nameless, it is not fear I do such.Rather earnest obedience to what I believe God has spoken to me....not another or you Sir..this is not about my website.'s about His Name...His Facelessness.....and that doesn't mean that you are wrong for putting your own name out there either....or others. ..the issue is what we believe that God is speaking FOR US TO DO RIGHT NOW. ....and that smells rosey as Sharon.....

  8. So if it's about what we believe that God is speaking for us to do right now, then you are correct that this has nothing to do with "Joel" and you should also know that this has nothing to do with Iowa or Luther or Calvin, and has nothing to do with how much I need to speak of any given thing, such as the Holy Spirit or anything else. Your entire point is negated.

  9. It has everything to do with saying I have need of can the eye say to the ear you are negated? All I am saying is with your gifting, be willing to do a series on Grace and the faceless Man...The HolySpirit...I spent alot of my youth in Dad and Grandad were from Dad was a Presbyterian minister...we wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and are very gifted. I say this in love, not carnal rivalry Joel....

  10. A word to the wise, then. An anonymous person coming here out of the blue to criticize and say things like, "I smell Anti-HolySpiritinism," isn't exactly something that smells of love. We do get emails from people asking us what we think about something, or asking if we can talk about something on our podcast, and we gladly think about it and if we're led then we'll do it. So I'll take your comments here as a suggestion, and I'll think about it and if led I'll run with it. If not, then I won't.

    I write and do audio and video when something is bubbling up or overflowing in me. I don't go around trying to find topics to write about. I don't write or talk about everything. We are indeed a body made up of eyes and ears and hands and kidneys and elbows. So think about that. Just as the rest of the body needs me and I need the rest of the body, I don't need to be (and can't be) everything to the body.

    That said, you may not have heard all 523 podcasts that we've done, so you may not have heard all the times we've talked about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Your assessment that I "avoid talking about the Holy Spirit" is so very far off. That's why I said "I think your smell is off" in my first comment.

    Anyway, I'm not going to take any more time with this. When others come across this post in the future, and should they have any similar concerns, they can see how this conversation went.