Love Your Neighbor; Self-Love; Loving One Another
Matthew Lesson #137
September 25, 2016
“Father, we are so privileged to have Your Word, that You have revealed this through the prophets of the Old Testament, apostles of the New Testament, and that You have breathed it out through human agents and preserved it for us, that this is Your inerrant and infallible Word and that, as the Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17, that we are to be sanctified by the Truth. Your Word is Truth.
Father, may we be mindful that as we study Your Word, that there is an inherent expectation in the Word that we respond to it, that we transform our thinking, that we renew our minds and be transformed by God the Holy Spirit into the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And we pray this in His name. Amen.”
This morning we’re going to look at the second part of the passage that we have been studying in Matthew 22, that began in verse 34 and goes to verse 40. The question that was asked Jesus is what’s the greatest of the commandments.
His response was, “First of all, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
This morning we’re going to move from what we have been studying in the previous verses to the last two verses, focusing on this Old Testament commandment that is reiterated by the Lord Jesus Christ here, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
As we look at this, there are a number of things that we need to keep in mind. But first, we always need to make sure that we are focusing contextually in the Scripture. We have to accurately understand what was being said, why it was being said, why the human author, in this case Matthew, is writing this and presenting this.
At this stage, this is just before the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be arrested, maybe a day or two before that, and He is being challenged and challenged all day by the religious leaders. They set Him up with these trick questions to try to trap Him, so that He would say something that would either incriminate Himself in the eyes of the Roman authorities or that he would clearly violate something from the Old Testament.
These are the three questions that were asked, and this third question is, “Teacher, what is the great commandment of the law?”
This commandment that He’s focusing on in “the second” that He says, “The second is like the first,” comes from Luke 19:18.
I’ve put this up here in the entire verse, although all Jesus is quoting is the second part of it, and that’s what’s quoted numerous times in the New Testament. You can see on the slide that I’ve listed most of these references.
The whole context of Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
As is typical in the Scripture, the positive command is couched with a contrast which helps us to bring the command into better focus. It’s contrasted with a negative “not to take vengeance,” which is the idea of being motivated through a personal vendetta. You may think you are justified in doing something in retribution to somebody because of their unjust actions.
This is always summarized in something my mother beat me over the head with as a child, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” You never respond in a wrong way to something that was done to you that was wrong.
You don’t seek vengeance or revenge. You don’t bear a grudge, you don’t have bitterness or anger or hostility or resentment in your soul towards someone who has maltreated you, mistreated you, someone who has behaved in what you perceive to be an unjust manner, or may, in fact, be an unjust manner, that instead we are to return love for evil. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This command is reiterated a number of times in the New Testament.
For example, Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this.” And then the quote from Leviticus 19:18.
It’s also found in passages such as Mark 12:28–31, Luke 10:27–37, Romans 13:9–10, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8.
There is a similar command, but critically different command, that Jesus gave to His disciples in John 13. There He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved that you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Notice that in these two verses the phrase “loving one another” is repeated three times for emphasis. But that’s not the only time it’s mentioned.
This section, starting in John 13 and going through John 16, is called the Upper Room Discourse, and this takes place immediately following the celebration of the Last Supper or the Passover meal the night before our Lord went to the Cross.
This occurs, probably around nine, eight to nine o’clock in the evening, and it immediately precedes Him going with the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. As they go along the way, that is when Jesus begins to teach them in John 15 and John 16. And in this section, this is reiterated several times.
I think it’s interesting that as you read through John 14, 15, and 16, there are several things mentioned several times, but two stand out.
One is that Jesus is telling the disciples that He is going to leave, but He is going to send the Holy Spirit, another Comforter, who will be with them, who will guide them, and who will direct them.
Along with that instruction that they would receive the Holy Spirit, we also find repeated several times this command to love one another.
A minute ago I read from Galatians 5:14. Those of you who are mindful of the importance of that chapter and the flow of the structure in that chapter, you have Paul reminding his readers that they are to love one another in Galatians 5:14. Then in Galatians 5:16, He tells them to walk by the Spirit. And then in Galatians 5:21, He identifies love as the first of the fruit of the Spirit that is given. So that Scripture is important.
This love that Jesus talks about in John 13 that is to be a special characteristic of Church Age believers is directly related to this ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the believer.
Another thing that we should note as we contrast John 13:34–35 with Leviticus 19:18, is that in Leviticus 19:18, which is clearly still in effect because of its constant repetition in the New Testament. Remember, there are basically two overall theological interpretations of the New Testament. One is that which is dispensational and under principles of hermeneutics or interpretation in dispensationalism. If something is not repeated in the New Testament, then it doesn’t continue.
For example, all of the basic commands and ethical commands of the 10 Commandments are repeated in the New Testament except one, and that is the law to observe the Sabbath because that was the sign of the Law, the Mosaic Covenant.
When Jesus died on the Cross, Paul tells us in Romans that this is the end of the Law. So the Law is no longer in effect.
Since the Law ended at the Cross, nothing in the Law inherently continues because the Law was the constitution of Israel. They only continue if it’s repeated in the New Testament.
When you have a command like Leviticus 19:18 repeated four or five times for emphasis in the New Testament, obviously, that mandate continues—that we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I want you to notice that the object of our love in Leviticus 19:18 is our neighbor, and our neighbor could be anyone, could be a believer, could be an unbeliever in the context of Israel. It could even be someone who was not an Israelite, someone who was maybe a proselyte or maybe a foreigner, an alien who is living in the land.
So the object there is anyone who could be your neighbor. And you’re supposed to love your neighbor as yourself.
There’s an assumption there that you already love yourself embedded in that command—you are to love your neighbor as yourself. And since the assumption here is that everybody has self-love, then instead of focusing selfishly upon yourself, you are to love others in that same way. So how you love yourself becomes that standard.
But when we look at the new commandment that Jesus gave His disciples, He says that we are to “love one another.” That phrase “one another” is used many times in the New Testament.
We are to encourage one another, admonish one another, teach one another. We are to serve one another, we’re to love one another, we’re to pray for one another, and many other commands related to one another. And “one another” refers to other believers in the body of Christ.
So where Leviticus 19:18 is talking about loving anyone, believer or unbeliever, John 13:34–35 is talking about how we are to treat others in the body of Christ. We are to love one another, and the standard is no longer as you love yourself.
The standard is ratcheted up a couple notches. We are to love one another as Jesus loves us. Okay, so the standard is no longer how you love yourself, but the standard is how Jesus loves us, and that is most evidently expressed in His death on the Cross on our behalf.
On the Cross, Jesus Christ died in our place. He paid the penalty for our sins, which is why in John 15 He says, “Greater love has no one than to give his life for his brother.” Okay, so that becomes the standard—it is the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous lessons as we were looking at what it means to love God, the standard that we saw of God’s love is what’s expressed at the Cross.
“For God loved the world in this way,” John 3:16 states. In other words, the grammar in the language of John 3:16 in the Greek is not that God loved us so much. That’s not the meaning of the Greek word. The meaning of the Greek word is God loved us in this way, and so John is giving us an example of how God loved us.
Romans 5:12 exemplifies that the same way. It says, “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When we talk about love, a much maligned and misunderstood term in our culture and in our world today, the pattern, the standard is God’s love for us. As those who are created in His image and likeness, we are to imitate that or reflect that. Our standard for love is how God has loved us. So in that way, we are to exhibit that to others.
That brings us back to something I pointed out that we can’t lose that is in this context, is when Jesus states in Matthew 22:39 that the second command is like it, He’s drawing a connection and irrevocable, necessary, internal connection between loving others and loving God, that to love others presupposes biblically, it presupposes loving God, that we can’t truly love others unless first of all we love God. And that grounds the Christian in love.
When we talk about this concept of love for one another in the Scripture, I’ve read and heard a number of different terms that are used to try to qualify what this love is. I’ve heard some people use the phrase “biblical love,” and that’s a good way to express it, distinguishing and emphasizing what the Bible says about love, because if you go to a dictionary, you go to some other source, and you look the word “love” up, the first thing they tell you is it’s an emotion.
But if you start with the Bible, we understand that love isn’t an emotion. Love isn’t a feeling; love isn’t getting butterflies in your stomach. It’s not puppy love. It’s not sentimentality. It is a mental attitude that is the result of a person’s volition or decision to act in the best interests of other people, no matter what it may cost us personally. This is the essence of love.
Another way I’ve heard people try to distinguish this Christian love, which is a good term that emphasizes the distinctiveness of John 13:34—35, is that this is a distinct love that distinguishes disciples.
Now someone who’s a Christian is not necessarily a disciple. A Christian is someone who has trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior. They believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for their sins. At the instant that we believe in Jesus, at that instant a number of things happen to us, among which we are positionally cleaned, we’re forgiven of all sin, we receive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we’re declared to be justified as a result of that, we are given new life in Him, which is called being born again or regenerate, and many, many other things happen in just a split second of time as a result of our trusting in Jesus Christ as our as our Savior.
That’s an important decision, it determines our eternal destiny. But then we have to make a subsequent decision, and that is now that we are a believer in Jesus Christ, are we going to be a disciple or are we just going to kind of float along happy we’re going to spend eternity in Heaven?
A disciple is someone who is a student, a learner, someone who is progressing or moving in the spiritual life. The way that you distinguish a disciple, Jesus says, “This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” He doesn’t say this is how people will know you’re a Christian. He says, this is how people will know you are My disciples, because you’re growing, and you are maturing.
Another term that I’ve heard used and have used many times is the concept of “unconditional love”—that as God’s love for us was without condition, that it was based not on who we are or what we’ve done, but was based totally and exclusively on His own integrity and His own grace, so there’s no conditions placed on and not saying I’m going to love you as long as you behave a certain way, act a certain way, conform to certain standards, that love is expressed without condition.
Another term that is sometimes used is the word “impersonal love,” and I’ve been thinking recently maybe that has some connotations that people often misunderstand. “Non-personal” might be another way to express it.
This is what we see exhibited in Luke 10 in this story of the good Samaritan. Basically, it is emphasizing that to express this kind of love does not entail having a personal relationship with the person you are showing love to. It can be the checkout person at the grocery store. It can be someone down the street that you don’t know. It could be anyone. It’s not related to having a prior personal knowledge or personal relationship with that person.
Another phrase I ran across just this last week, and had not heard this term used, is “interpersonal love,” and that’s what this is. It is love for one another. It is interpersonal love. This is clearly emphasized in Scripture.
Now, as we have gone through this passage, just a quick reminder of the situation and the setting, the Pharisees have tried to set up Jesus. One of their own, he’s called the lawyer here. That’s not a lawyer, as you and I are familiar with lawyers. It’s someone who’s a specialist in Torah. He has studied Torah; he understands all the issues. Mark calls him a scribe, so he’s one who copies the Scripture. He knows it inside and out, backwards and forwards, and so he’s the one who is asking Jesus this question to test Him.
There it’s clear; this is not a positive environment. It’s not an academic environment where he’s saying, “Well, let’s see what you have to say.” He’s trying to set Him up and trap Him.
So he asked this question, “Teacher, what’s the greatest commandment in the Law?” Because they didn’t believe that there was really one, that was one view, that they didn’t believe that there was one that would be better than the other, since they all came from God, and so he’s asking what is the greatest commandment.
Jesus has two answers. Part one is, He says, “First of all, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.” First in priority.
The second one is dependent and connected to it, and that’s the one we’re studying today, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Then Jesus says “On these two commandments, hang all the law and the prophets.”
This word “hang” was one that was used in a couple places in rabbinical writings, indicating a relationship of dependency. Everything else is dependent upon this bedrock foundation of loving God with all your being and loving your neighbor as you as yourself.
The scribe in Mark responds positively to this. Matthew doesn’t go into this response, but the bottom line at the end is everyone is sort of shut up at the end of the day. After that no one dares to question Him.
As we look at this verse, this important verse of “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” I want to point out that this is a verse that has been used in our culture and in our time in, great, great perversion. And the basic summary of this perversion is the idea that you can’t love others until you first love yourself.
See, the verse says love your neighbor as yourself, but the assumption in humanistic psychology going back to the late 19th century is that the problem that man has isn’t sin, the problem that man has is he just doesn’t love himself enough. He doesn’t have a high view of himself. He has a problem with self-image. He has a problem with self-esteem.
This doctrine related to self-love and self-esteem later blossomed in the 60s and 70s and led to this whole self-esteem movement that’s at the heart of humanistic psychology, but it can be traced back to the late 19th century to the anti-Christian and anti-God nihilistic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
All ideas come from somewhere, and they either come from God or they come from some humanistic psychologist. What we see in the middle of the 19th century is a wholesale rejection by Western civilization of its historic Christian roots. It’s manifested in what has come to be called 19th century religious liberalism, but it also developed a purely secular worldview that is completely antagonistic and intentionally so, intentionally antagonistic to Christianity with the self-stated goal of destroying the impact and the influence of biblical Christianity and Western civilization.
Friedrich Nietzsche was one of many at the forefront of this, but we also connect his nihilism to the teaching of Charles Darwin in terms of evolution and naturalistic evolution, a natural worldview that excludes anything supernatural, that excludes God from the get-go is going to automatically have a different, a totally and radically different, view of what makes a human being, a human being than what the Bible says.
The Bible says man is directly created by God in His image and His likeness, and that which makes a human being a human being, that which elevates us above all creation is that very fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God.
But if we are the product of evolution, however you shake that, whether it’s purest Darwinian evolution, or some sort of modified theistic evolution, progressive evolution, threshold evolution, or any of the other blasphemous compromises with Christianity that come along, it changes the nature of how you view man and what man’s basic problem is.
So Darwin changed the origins. Darwinism provides a theory of origins that is 180° opposite that of the Word of God. If you’re going to have a worldview, you have to have a view of origins. Darwin provided the theory of origins. Then you have to have a theory of the nature of man. So you had a number of different thinkers who influenced Western civilization in terms of their view of man. You had Sigmund Freud in the area of psychology, Carl Hume in the area of psychology, you had others in the area of a philosophy like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard who are reshaping man. They’re flipping the terminology so that man is not created in God’s image, man is creating God in man’s image.
At the very core of this is understanding what is the problem with man? But if you reject the Bible and you reject God, you have to reject any notion of sin, and it has to be removed. So how are you going to define man’s problems?
Well, their definition is a problem of self-image. It’s a problem that man doesn’t think of himself the way he should think of himself. He needs to have self-esteem and self-love, self-acceptance. He has to have self-confidence—all of these other terms, none of which are ever talked about in the Bible.
What you do find in the Bible is a statement such as this: The apostle Paul writing in 2 Timothy 3:1–4, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of—self—lovers of themselves”—as the New King James translates it. It’s the same thing. They will love themselves. They will be—“lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
That could pretty much be the sum total description of modern Western civilization in Europe and in the United States. It is a horrible description, but it shows a complete meltdown that has occurred as a result of the shifts that took place in the end of the 19th century.
Nietzsche is the father of this self-love perversion. He said “your neighbor love is your bad love of yourself.” See, you don’t really love yourself, so you can’t really love your neighbor. He says the problem is “you do not love yourselves sufficiently.”
What does the Scripture say?
Scripture says in Romans 12:3, “For I say, to the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”
The assumption there is that we already, because of our sin nature which is oriented to self, that we already think too highly of ourselves. But we are to think soberly. That doesn’t mean you’re to think without the influence of alcohol. The word “soberly” has the idea of objectively. You’re to think in terms of reality, not in terms of this self-inflated view that you have of yourself as a result of sin and arrogance.
By the way, one other note before I move on in the Scripture. One of the psychologists who was profoundly influenced by Nietzsche, and of course if you have any knowledge of history, you know that Nietzsche’s view of the superman was very influential on the thinking of Adolf Hitler. It’s interesting, and you can get out on the Internet read a lot of things about this to see the connections between Nietzsche and many other thinkers, but one of the most significant in the middle part of the 20th century was a psychologist by the name of Erich Fromm.
I was just reading about him earlier in the week, as I was doing some studies on the role of and the influence of Marxism in American thought, and that Eric Fromm was a key person in what is known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.
Now just as a quick aside without running down this rabbit trail too long, but just so you can connect a few dots is that in the mid-19th century, late 19th century, had the influence of Marxism.
Now most everybody understands that the country most influenced by Marxism was the Soviet Union. As it became apparent by the mid-19th century that the Marxism that was being practiced in the Soviet Union was something of a failure, they were not developing a worker’s paradise, they weren’t bringing about a utopia, all of these things, there were Western thinkers who were so in love with Marxism that they began to shift the thinking away from an economic Marxism to a cultural Marxism.
This was embodied in a group of intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals, among whom was Erich Fromm, focusing on this new view of mankind. So this was the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. This group identified every problem in Western civilization as the result of the influence of the Bible and Christianity. And their self-stated goal was to change all of the structures in Western civilization away from the Bible and to influence it through academia.
I did post a link to one article on my Facebook page today that goes through this history, but it’s fascinating. And so you see this connection between the thinking that shifted at the end of the 19th century, and part of this was shifting the thinking about the essential problem of man and especially in this area of self-image and self-love.
Now to further can connect the dots you have Nietzsche influencing Eric Fromm, who influences and a pastor from Southern California by the name of Robert Schuller. He wrote a book in the early 80s called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. In there he says that the problem we face isn’t sin, the problem is self-image. He’s just articulating the same thing.
He sent a free copy to every pastor in the country. I got a copy. Okay, every pastor in the country got a free copy of this book, and it influenced a whole generation of young pastors in a negative anti-biblical direction.
You’d be amazed at how many so-called biblically based pastors I have heard just echo this thought, without understanding where it came from, that you really can’t love others until you love yourselves. But that is not what the Bible teaches.
In fact, in Ephesians 5:29 as Paul is talking about the husband’s love for his wife, he makes this explanatory side note when he says, “For no one.” Now does that phrase “no one” leave anybody out?
“No one.” That means the person who’s depressed. That means the person who is upset with the way they look, that they don’t like their body type, they don’t like a number of things. The person who is upset with their direction in life and in the failures in their life. All the people who say, “You know, I’m just a failure. I’m no good.” Psychologists say, “See, you have low self-esteem.”
But if they had low self-esteem, they would be glad they were fat and ugly, if they really hated themselves. If you really hate yourself, you’d be glad you were a loser. If you really hated yourself, you’d be glad you were miserable.
But the Bible says no, you don’t hate yourself. You love yourself. Everyone does. Ephesians 5:29, “No one ever hated his own flesh.” That just skewers this whole idea of self-esteem and self-love, and destroys it. No one ever hated himself.
You think you may hate yourself at times, but that’s because you’ve disappointed yourself. You’re not what you thought you should be. Because ultimately what’s behind the so-called self-hate is self-love. Everyone loves themselves. This is exactly what the Scriptures emphasize.
This is the pattern. When Jesus is saying that we are to love others as ourselves, He is recognizing that that is our inherent orientation from our sin nature is to put ourselves first.
Luke 6:31 is another statement of this principle in terms of what we often call the Golden Rule, where Jesus said, “And just as you want men to do to you”—that presupposes that you want people to treat you well—“just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
The essence of being able to love others well is a humility. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit”—the presupposition is that that’s the orientation of our soul, that’s the orientation of our sin nature—is selfish ambition or conceit—“but in lowliness of mind”—and that doesn’t mean some sort of psychological self-flagellation. It means having an honest understanding of who you are, not thinking more highly of yourself as you ought to think, as Paul put it in Romans—“that we are to esteem others better than ourselves.” That’s another expression of what it means to love others as ourselves.
But Jesus gives a very precise understanding of what it means to love others in a little story He tells in Luke 10. The lawyer in that passage—it’s not parallel, this conversation happened earlier in His ministry—this lawyer asked Jesus some point facetiously, “Well, just who is my neighbor?” And Jesus gives him a story.
He says, “There’s a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.”
This is the reverse course. This is going down the uphill or that route is called the Ascent of Adummim, and it is quite a significant walk, but it’s well-traveled. This is a main road from Jericho up to Jerusalem. So this man is going down and he’s dropping from a little over 3,000 feet above sea level down to about 500 or 600 feet below sea level, down to the location of Jericho. So it’s a downhill slide, if you have ever driven that way.
This certain man is going, and we’re not told who this man was, we’re not told his ethnicity, we’re not told his background, we’re not told anything about him. He’s just a man. It’s not relevant whether he’s Jewish, Gentile, or what. He’s just a man. He’s going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he is ambushed, and he falls among thieves who strip all of his clothes, they wound him, and they beat him up, and they leave him for dead by the side of the road. He is probably barely conscious.
Let’s go on. I don’t have the rest of the text up on the screen, but let’s look at it in Luke 10, following in verse 31, He says, “Now by chance”—the Greek word there indicates that He’s just talking as if out of what would appear to be the circumstance.
He says first of all, “A certain priest came down.” So there are going to be three people who walk by him. One is a priest, one is a Levite. The difference is the priest is one who is actively serving in the temple, and the Levite is simply one who is a descendent of Levi. He’s in the Levitical tribe, but he is not necessarily actively serving in the temple.
By using both of those examples, He’s emphasizing this is someone who knows the Word, somebody who understands, because the role of the Levite was to teach the Word, and someone who would understand the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. So both of them would understand that commandment.
So He says first of all, the priest comes down the road, and when he saw him, he goes to the other side of the street and walks by looking, probably looking in the other direction so he can claim that he didn’t see anything. Then a Levite comes along. He says when he arrived at the place he came and looked and passed by on the other side. So both of them are ignoring the needs of this one, and then along comes a certain Samaritan.
Remember in the context He’s talking to Pharisees, He’s talking to this legal expert among the Pharisees in this passage as well, and the ethnic group they love to despise and hate were the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were half breeds. They had some Jewish blood, but these were a group of people that had, after the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom, they had resettled other ethnic groups into the Northern Kingdom, and so they were not considered pure descendants, purely Jewish. They were a mixed race, and so they were looked down upon by the Jews.
In fact, the level of racial prejudice you would expect from a member of the Ku Klux Klan toward someone who was black was probably less than the level of racial prejudice that the Jews had towards a Samaritan.
If you know anything about the geography of Israel, a straight shot would get take you from Jerusalem due north to Galilee. But no, they would never travel that way. They would go due east down the Ascent of Adummim to Jericho, cross over to the other side of the Jordan River, and then walk up the other side of the Jordan to completely avoid Samaria at whatever the cost, and then once they got to the Sea of Galilee, then they would cross back over, because they didn’t want to even walk through Samaria. They wanted to avoid it no matter what.
So this is a Samaritan. He is one who is despised. He is someone who is looked down upon. He is someone who is ridiculed as unclean, but yet it is this Samaritan who comes along, and sees him, and has compassion on him.
The word there is he expresses his understanding of what this guy is going through, and he is going to help him. He goes to him, bandages his wounds, he puts oil and wine on him, he cleans him, and he puts him up on his own animal, and he walks to the next place, the inn, and he takes care of him.
Incidentally, the word for “inn” here is a word for “inn.” It’s not the same word that’s used over in the birth narrative of Jesus, where they went to Bethlehem, and there was no room at the inn. That’s a totally different word. Probably means the upper room, and that’s how it’s translated in other places. This is a genuine inn, and he takes him there.
We’re told that he takes care of him at the inn and makes sure he gets a good night’s rest, watches over him. On the next day when he departs, he goes even further. He has no obligation to this wounded victim of highway robbery. Now he takes out money. He’s going to pay for his night, and he is going to tell the innkeeper to take care of this guy and do whatever it takes, no matter what the cost. When he comes back, he will cover the cost.
That’s grace. He doesn’t have a relationship with this guy by the side of the road. It’s an impersonal relationship. It’s a non-personal relationship. It’s just somebody who has a genuine need. And he is going to go beyond whatever is expected in order to provide for the needs. This is a picture of the kind of love that God has expressed to us through Christ on the Cross.
Then Jesus addresses the lawyer. He says, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
He said—I wonder if he said it like (sheepishly mumbling), “Well, it’s the guy who showed mercy”—or did he really say, “Well, you’re right. It’s the guy who showed mercy.” Is he kind of sheepish at this point or is he just saying, “OK. I understand the point, OK, yeah, it’s the guy …” No, he states that it’s the one who showed mercy. That’s the one who is fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as yourself.
So when we think about loving others, when we think about what it means to love one another as Christ loved the church, what is exemplified here is that there are no conditions placed on this. There is no personal relationship that’s necessary or prerequisite to expressing this kind of love. It’s a recognition that this other person is someone who is created in the image and likeness of God, and is therefore, worthy of our help, our assistance, our aid no matter who they are and no matter what they have done simply because they are another human being.
In terms of the application for the church—and it just really gets ratcheted up when that other person is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, because that is when we express our love for one another, and that is what the Lord says is the sign of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples.”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon Your Word, to think through the implications of what our Lord said, and its application in our own thinking, and in our own lives. There are many opportunities we have every day, whether it has to do with the someone we live with, our spouse, our children, our parents, to exhibit this kind of love, rather than to react in anger or resentment or irritation or bitterness, that we are to put those things aside, and we are to love one another as You have loved us.
You loved us even when we were in a position of hostility and enmity toward You. That’s the picture of the Cross. Every one of us at one point was hostile to God, we were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, and we were running away from the truth as fast as we could. And yet, someone, somewhere told us the gospel, and we understood the unrestricted grace that was exhibited at the Cross, we came face-to-face with Your love that was not based on conditions, and we trusted Christ as our Savior.
Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening today that if they have never trusted Christ as Savior that they would take this opportunity to do so. Jesus Christ died on the Cross for you that you might have eternal life, and the only thing that Scripture says is necessary is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with what we have studied today, that we might implement this in our thinking and in our lives.
In Christ’s name, amen.”