B117 - Love our neighbor as ourselves
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
In John 13:34-35, Jesus said,
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is someone who is close by and who requires assistance. It does not matter who the person’s background, religion or potential reciprocal benefit is to us.
Christians are recognized by our love for each other.
- It was love that compelled Jesus to come to earth and go to the cross.
- It was love that led missionary Jim Elliot into the jungle of the Amazon where he was killed by the Waodani tribe in Ecuador.
- It was the same love that inspired Mother Teresa to work among the poor on the streets of Calcutta.
In the present era, Christians have been inundated by liberal thinking of hate and bigotry so much so that it has driven many Christians to be more tribal and defensive. Yet, the bottom line condoned by our Lord is still for believers to love.
We have to ask ourselves once again – How can we demonstrate love in a very hate-filled environment where Christians are targeted? Here are some suggestions:
- Seek out our neighbors and love them,
- Bless those who persecute us,
- Be compassionate and genuine,
- Do not get personal in our disagreements,
- Choose to act against our feelings of displeasure,
- Be ready to sacrifice – potentially our time, money and energy.
See also B22, Love one another fervently.
B118 - Show love to the person we come in contact with
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ – Matt 5:44.
Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Jews knew ‘love’ only in the context of their own kind. But Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. There was a man who was beaten by robbers and left for dead. Along the way, a priest and a Levite saw the dying man but both avoided doing anything to help. But when a Samaritan saw the victim, he responded and came to the rescue of this injured man.
The Samaritan did not regard the man’s background, religion or even a potential benefit to himself. He assisted because he was there on the spot and he was compassionate. He showed kindness to the person he came in contact with. He did not avoid doing good.
Our action as Christians is to show love to any person that we come in contact with, either in showing hospitality or just in doing good.
B119 - Shine our light that others may know and glorify God
Always be prepared with a testimony regarding the goodness of God on you personally.
Rev 12:11 explains that believers overcame the devil
‘by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’
Matt 5:16 says,
‘Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’
while John 4:28-29 had the Samaritan woman going out to the neighborhood to testify of Jesus.
Believers are to be pro-active in doing social work in their neighborhood, as part and parcel of who they are (i.e. doing it with our heart) and not just to show-off our status of wealth.
Let our good works testify of who we are. Our testimonies are powerful and even the devil is afraid of them (see Rev 12:11).
B120 - Give no opportunity to the devil to speak evil of us
‘Give the adversary no occasion to slander.’
The context of the verse revolves around younger widows whom Paul suggested should marry again.
But the principle of ‘giving the adversary no occasion to slander’ applies. In 1 Cor 6:1-8, the Apostle Paul did not want a believer to go to court with another believer and get their dirty linens aired out in the process.
Christians should be known for doing good. Going to court because of wrongdoings will bring disrepute to the church. Hence, Paul said that Christians should give no opportunity to the devil to speak evil of us.
B121 - Pursue peace with all people (if possible)
Christians are about love and peace. Heb 12:14 says,
‘Strive for peace with everyone.’
The same is found in Rom 12:18.
In terms of behaviors, Christians are not a belligerent people but are responsible –
- Hardworking (2 Thes 3:10, B57 – Do not associate with a lazy believer),
- Peace-loving, and keepers of our words (B114 – Pay taxes).
- Active in social work (B119 – Shine your light).
B122 - Honor all people
1 Peter 2:17 says,
‘Honor all people.’ The Greek word is timao or value at a price, honor, esteem. We do so regardless of language, religion or ethnicity. Here are some ways to do so:
- Giving a genuine compliment,
- Helping them with a problem,
- Praying for them,
- Making them food on certain occasions,
- Giving them a present,
- Being kind.
Christians do not practice a caste system.
B123 - Be compassionate, sympathetic and tenderhearted
1 Peter 3:8 says,
‘Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.’
‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’
The Greek word for tenderhearted in both verses is eusplagochnos or merciful and compassionate. Repeatedly in the Bible, you will find Jesus demonstrating compassion.
The Greek word of sympathetic is sumpathes. It means compassionate and sympathizing or feeling sorry for someone or something.
Jesus was compassionate and it flowed out from his sympathy. He always had sympathy for the common people but hardly any when it came to the Pharisees and scribes who prescribed religions and rules to bind the people.
It was compassion that drove Jesus to perform the miracle in feeding the four thousand (Matt 15:32). He resurrected a young man because he felt compassion on the mother (Luke 7:13). And again he sensed a compassion on the crowd and said to his disciples,
‘The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest’ (Matt 9:37).
Compassion flows out of love and we know how God views love as in 1 Cor 13. Our relationship with people must be one that flows out of compassion and it is compassion that drives our lives.
B124 - Do not be ashamed of Jesus (Identify with him openly)
The Apostle Paul said in Rom 1:16,
‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel.’
Everywhere he went, he declared openly that he was a Christian. And for that, he was persecuted.
Jesus made it clear that
‘whoever is ashamed of me (Jesus), and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:35-38).
In the Old Testament, Daniel was not ashamed of his God. When Daniel knew that King Darius had signed an ordinance barring anyone from praying to their gods or man for thirty days except to the King alone, instead of cowering, Daniel declared his faith by opening his windows and praying toward Jerusalem; he wanted everyone to know who he was not ashamed of. For that, we read about the famous story of Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:1-28),
As Christians, we must never be ashamed of our faith and love for Jesus to identify with him openly. It is especially so if we are persecuted for our faith. Jesus expected us to be faithful unto death (Rev 2:10).
See B385, Be prepared to pay with our lives.
B125 - Do not owe anyone anything except to love one another
‘Owe no one anything except to love each other.’
If we borrow, we must return quickly.
It is also not a Christian trait to owe and withhold money that belongs to other people. Rom 13:7 says,
‘Pay to all what is owed to them; taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.’
It is true that we may have a house mortgage or car to pay off. Our role as Christians is always to fulfill our financial obligations, and not to stretch our creditors.
B126 - Be prepared to mix with people of the world (Don't be a hermit)
Heb 2:17 explains,
‘Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.’
Why is Jesus qualified as a high priest? Because he was made as one of us.
When Jesus was here, he was always ‘eating with sinners and tax collectors’ (Mark 2:16). His explanation was simple,
‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners.’
Jesus never lived the life of a recluse. Neither should Christians. Hence, be prepared to mix with people of the world to win some over but yet know that as Christians we are merely pilgrims on earth.
B127 - Defend the weak against leaders (especially religious leaders) who take advantage of them
Jesus was always ready to defend the weak especially against the Pharisees and scribes, religious leaders of his days. He called them out saying that they ‘devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers’ (Mark 12:40).
Social justice is a tough call for Christians to choose because it requires judgment (our interpretation of the Bible on what is right and wrong) and courage. Social justice is about defending the weak when leaders (especially religious leaders) abuse them; it is not just about any form of protests.
An example on social justice is the ‘March for Life’, where Christians are standing up for pre-born babies who cannot defend themselves.
See also B116, Expose the works of darkness.
B128 - Do not harm our neighbor
‘Love does no wrong to a neighbor.’
The parallel words for ‘wrong’ include harm, evil, and ill. The Greek word is kakos or bad, evil, in the widest sense.
Christians are to love and not do (or even wish) any form of evil deeds to their neighbors (colleagues, schoolmates, neighbors, politicians).
Sometimes to do that, it is useful to pray for people who are very different to us and others whom we may not favor.
Prayer helps to change our perspective of the world.
B129 - Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers
‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.’
This verse deals with the struggle of a believer with an unbelieving partner.
The Apostle Paul asked,
‘What accord has Christ with Belial (Belial being a biblical name of the devil or one of the fiends)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God (believers) with idols (unbelievers)’ (2 Cor 6:15-16).
The Greek word for ‘not to be unequally yoked’ is heterozugeo – heteros being ‘another of a different kind’, and zygos being ‘a yoke’.
It means that a believer should not be yoked together with someone who is of a different kind. It reflects on a Christian wrongly committing to a partner who holds very different values (priorities) to him/ her.
‘Yoking’ is a powerful imagery. It means ‘coming together’. For both to work effectively, they cannot go in different directions. But if a believer and an unbeliever come together in a marriage, we have some practical issues – e.g. methods on bringing up children, decisions on expenditure, what movies are acceptable, church attendance, and general worldviews. The yoke is actually not light but quite heavy, as you can imagine.
Marriage is an obvious case of ‘yoking’ but it could go further.
B130 - Do not join in the sins of the world
Rom 12:2 reads,
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’
and Eph 5:11 says,
‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.’
Christians are not to be involved in sinful acts of the world.
What does it mean in a practical sense? What are some sinful acts? See under the section on ‘Sins’.
If our conscience does not feel comfortable, that is the best time to check with ourselves whether it is wise to be involved in it. In addition, it is worthwhile to seek out godly men to hear it from them.
Read also B120, Give no opportunity to the devil.
B131 - Go to court for sharing Jesus (Righteous acts)
Matt 5:11 says,
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’
Here is a case when people start accusing believers because they serve Jesus. That is when Jesus used the word ‘Blessed’.
PS: We are beginning to see more of such incidents happening. And there seem to be no logic to it other than because believers serve Jesus.
The Book of Acts has many accounts when the disciples were arrested by the authorities.
- In Act 4:3, both Peter and John were arrested because ‘they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead’.
- In Acts 5:17, it was the same thing. They were again arrested because they were teaching about Jesus.
Paul had no problems with Christians going to jail for sharing Jesus; that is a righteous act.
Christians must be prepared for more of such occurrences.
B132 - Go not to court for unrighteous acts
‘But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.’
If a Christian commits a righteous act as described in B131, Righteous Acts, then there is no problem in going to court.
Not so if it is for an unrighteous case. If a Christian commits such a thing, then it is important that the person repents.
Christians – Do not go to jail for criminal acts and bring the name of Jesus into disrepute.
B133 - Go not to court with anyone, if possible