Bible Reading – Exodus 20:12-26
After the first four commandments outline our relationship with God, Christ summarizes the spirit of the next six laws in the New Testament with a short but profound statement, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is crucial to recognize the importance of the order in which God gives His Laws. The first and great commandment is to love God with our whole being of body, soul, and spirit. As we endeavor to make God our only priority, we are so influenced by the presence of God that His love becomes a part of our life. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.” As we focus on our relationship with Christ, He will in a supernatural way change us to be more like Him, to be more loving. The best way to be more like Christ is to spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word. After focusing on our relationship with Christ, we will be equipped to obey the second portion of the commands as we deal with those around us!
“Love thy neighbor as thyself,” is a reminder that those around me are like me. I was unloveable, but Christ loved me. I was worthless, but Christ valued me and gave me value. I was foolish, but Christ was patient with me. I was adversarial, but Christ was merciful to me. It was the love and forgiveness of Christ by which I was enamored. It was that agape love that I wanted for myself, and it is that same agape, divine love that I should strive to love others with. If I am overwhelmed with the love of God, that very “neighbor” who is unlovable, foolish, and maybe even intentionally adversarial should remind me of who I used to be, and that should motivate me to be ever more loving, patient, and merciful, loving my neighbor as myself.
Rampant in our culture is the attempt that I too often make to love one another without first loving Christ. This proves to be an impossible and futile task. When we attempt to love others equipped only with the love of man, our supply is shortly exhausted. Instead of the overwhelming love of God pouring out from us and impacting others, “love” becomes influenced by man. That imposter, faux “love” can easily and quickly turn to animosity. “Love wins” slogans are surrounded by hurt and angry mobs who are hurtful and hateful, yet not to be blamed. Christians, however, who claim to love, far too often show little to no patience, mercy, or love toward the people who are a reminder of who we are without Christ. Only when we have the proper order of a right relationship with God first, will we learn and practice to hate the sin but love unconditionally the sinner.
— Eli Faulds