1. Jesus said the greatest commandments are love God with your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:37-40
a. The Law and the prophets are summed up in these two commandments.
b. If you do these two things, you will be doing the things God wants.
c. To sin is to step outside of love.
2. We’ve spent several weeks talking about what it means to love God.
a. We love Him because He first loves us. I John 4:19
b. Our love for Him is a response to what we know about His love for us.
3. Christianity is not about keeping a list of rules and regulations; it’s about loving God and loving your neighbor because God first loved you.
4. In this lesson, we want to begin to deal with what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
a. Everyone probably has specific situations or relationships they are dealing with — and it would be easy just to focus on that situation. But, listen for general principles. You’ll get light for the specifics from the general, and you’ll have help with future situations as well.
b. Don’t think in terms of — I know someone who really needs to hear this. Apply it to yourself.
1. The theme of the Bible is God’s desire for a family and the great lengths He went to to get one through Jesus Christ. Eph 1:4-6
a. God’s plan is that His sons be conformed to the image of Jesus. Rom 8:29 b. Molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness]. Amp)
2. God wants to love His family. He is a Father who delights in His children.
a. But, He also wants to demonstrate Himself through His children — His character and His power.
b. Eph 3:10–[The purpose is] that through the Church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere. (Amp)
c. Eph 2:7–And now God can always point to us as examples of how very, very rich his kindness is, as shown in all he has done for us through Jesus Christ. (Living)
3. Remember, the standard for Christian behavior is not a list of rules and regulations, it is a person — Jesus Christ. I John 2:6
a. Jesus acted like His Father = showed His Father’s character and power through the way He talked and acted. John 14:9,10
b. There was a family resemblance, and there is to be one with us. Matt 5:48 c. One of the ways we show the family resemblance is through how we treat other people — that is the context of Matt 5:48
4. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. John 13:34,35
a. This is not a cliche. We are to show the same love to the world that God the Father, through Jesus, has shown us.
b. Rom 2:4–The goodness of God led us to repentance. Jer 31:3–He drew us with lovingkindness.
c. He will draw others through His love seen in us. John 12:32; 17:23
5. The love that God is and has is agape love.
a. Nothing in the object of that love merits or deserves that love.
b. That love comes out of the choice, nature of the one doing the loving.
c. That love desires the good, the welfare of the object of that love.
6. God has not dealt with us or treated us based on who we are and what we have done, but on the basis of who He is and what has done.
a. He didn’t deal with us as we deserved. We don’t deserve His love.
b. It came to us in spite of us because of Him and His character. That is the love with which we are to love others.
7. Here are some general characteristics of this love we are to have for others.
a. Matt 22:39–We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
b. Luke 6:32-34–We are to love those who can’t / won’t return it.
c. Luke 6:31; Matt 7:12–We are to treat others as we want to be treated.
d. Luke 6:35; Matt 5:44–We are to love our enemies.
e. Rom 12:19-21–We are not to retaliate or get revenge.
f. Eph 4:32–We are to forgive others.
g. John 13:34: 15:12–We are to love each other as Christ loved us.
1. Eph 5:2; John 15:13–In His love, Christ gave Himself for us.
2. Jesus came as a servant. Mark 10:45–For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for (instead of) many. (Amp)
8. This love we are to love with:
a. Gives up the right to get revenge or get even.
b. Forgives all for everything.
c. Treats people not as they deserve, but as we want to be treated and as God has treated us.
d. Desires the good of others above its own.
9. Notice the common element in each of these characteristics–this is how God has loved each of us.
a. God had the right to repay us in kind for every sin we’ve ever committed. Instead, He punished Jesus in our place. Isa 53:4,5
b. God has forgiven us for everything we have done or ever will do. Heb 8:12 c. We deserved hell; He gave us heaven. We were enemies; He made us sons. Rom 5:10
d. At great cost to themselves, the Father and the Son obtained our salvation.
10. The bottom line is that God wants us to love others as He has loved us.
11. As children of God, we reflect our Father. As Christians, we walk even as Jesus walked.
1. You must know that you are fully capable of walking in this kind of love.
a. You’re a new creature with the life of God in you. II Cor 5:17; Gal 5:22
b. Rom 5:5–For God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Amp)
c. You must choose to believe this and speak it out (faith agrees with God). I can love people the way God wants with the love He has put in my heart.
2. You must know that your standing with God (your relationship to Him) is not affected by your successes or failures in this area.
a. You were saved by grace and stand in God’s grace. Eph 2:8,9; Rom 5:1,2 b. Success in loving people does not earn you God’s approval and blessing. c. Failure in loving people does not lose you God’s approval and blessing.
d. Remember, your position was given you in Christ, and your experience does not change your position.
e. We are learning how to let the love of God in our hearts dominate our mind, emotions, and actions. Phil 1:6
3. You must understand what love is and is not.
a. Love is not a “feeling” or a “like”. It is an action based on a decision you make about how you are going to treat someone.
b. We aren’t called to like everyone. “Like” is based on mutual interests, personalities, things we find desirable in another person, etc.
c. Christians sometimes feel condemned because they don’t have warm feelings toward a particular person.
1. That really isn’t the issue. The issue is: how do you treat that person? 2. Do you treat them the way the Bible tells you to treat them or do you treat them based on how you feel?
4. You must understand some things about emotions and how they work.
a. When someone hurts, disappoints us, it’s natural to feel hurt or anger.
1. Emotions are responses of the soul to what is going on around us. 2. The question is: What do you do with those emotions? Do you allow them to determine your actions and cause you to step outside of love?
3. How do you know if you stepped outside of love? Would you want done to you what you did to that person?
b. You can control your emotions.
1. It begins with a decision not to respond based on emotions. Eph 4:26 2. Then, you start to change your emotions by changing your thoughts.
c. When someone wrongs us in some way (hurts us, harms us, disappoints us, etc.) we immediately begin to talk to ourselves.
d. What we tell ourselves will either fuel our emotions or calm them.
1. How could they do that to me? Who do they think they are? They have no right to do that to me!!
2. Or, They don’t know they’re hurting me; they don’t know any better.
3. They may not know Jesus, so they are in worse condition than me with hurt feelings.
4. They’re just like me, in need of mercy, dependent on the grace of God.
e. By changing what you are thinking and saying about the situation, it will help you get your emotions under control and keep you from stepping outside of love.
5. You must understand what it means to forgive.
a. It means you give up your right to get even, to get revenge.
b. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision you make about how you are going to treat someone.
1. What was done to Jesus by the men who crucified Him was a wicked act inspired by satan. Luke 22:3; Acts 2:23; I Cor 2:8
a. They had no right to take the innocent Son of God and crucify Him.
b. He was betrayed by a friend and rejected by the very people to whom He was sent.
2. He had the right and power to retaliate. Yet on the Cross, one of the last things He did was forgive His betrayers and murders. Matt 26:53-56; Luke 23:34
a. Look at what He said — they don’t know what they’re doing.
b. We don’t think of this possibility, but what if He had told Himself: How dare they? They have no right to do this to me!! After all I’ve done!!
c. Jesus had to choose to see and say things the way they really were — not the way His emotions and the temptations of satan might have suggested.
3. This is how we are supposed to respond:
a. I forgive them, they don’t realize what they are doing.
b. They may know the actions they are taking, they may even realize they are hurting me, but they do ‘t realize they are unleashing consequences in their own lives. Gal 6:7,8
4. I Pet 2:21-23 specifically tells us that Jesus is our example of how to respond when people treat us wrongly.
a. Guile = deceitfully cunning; revile = to subject to verbal abuse.
b. Follow in His steps; He never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly. (Living)
c. We find out here what He told Himself about His situation: I’m fulfilling scripture. I’m obeying My Father; He’s in control. He’ll work it out.
5. Jesus is our example. We can respond to hurtful people, insults, injustices, etc., like this. God never tells us something He has not given us the power to do.
a. We are in union with Christ. We are branches of the Vine.
b. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus — that’s our eternal destiny.
1. But, keep these thoughts in mind.
a. We can treat others the way God wants us to — by His grace.
1. We are new creatures with His love in our hearts.
2. He has given us His Book which gives us instructions and examples about how to do it.
b. As we learn and grow in this area, we stand in His grace, so we don’t have to fear failures or live under condemnation.
c. We only have to keep on walking in the direction of love.
2. Because of the love He has shown to us, we love Him and we can now love