In Leviticus 19:18 Moses in God’s voice made this statement to Israel: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”

Centuries later Jesus declared in Mark 12:31, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This response was given to a question from a scribe about God’s most important commandment.

Still later Paul cited the same statement in Romans 13:9 as the summation of all the Ten Commandments that targeted humans’ treatment of humans.

Christians are likely more familiar with the concept in the statement Jesus made in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This concept is related to the same lesson in Matthew 5:47: “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles (people who do not believe in the living God) do the same?”

As a philosophical concept, most Christians would say this concept has great merit. “It would be wonderful if all people treated other people that way!” Yet, many Christians would say, “That simply is not the way our world works!”

Perhaps the irony is in this: As a concept, “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” is wonderful! As a practical way to live, the concept “just does not work.”

Speaking practically, what is the application of the concept? (1) Do you treat people who cause you hurt or whom you do not like with compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Or do you reserve those attitudes only for those you love? (2) Do you respond to people with criticism and judgment? (3) Are you quick to condemn without understanding situations and circumstances? (4) Are you thankful for insights that often deliver you from deplorable consequences and use those insights helpfully to rescue and encourage others? (5) Do you help someone who has made a mistake, or do you see that he/she pays the full price for their folly?

“Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Don’t you realize that is just not the way that people who do not belong to God act!” How true! BUT ... that is the way people who know God should act! Therein always has been the contrast between the person who knows God and the person who does not know God.

The question IS NOT, “Does that kind of behavior work in a world that does not know God?” The question IS: “Do I have the courage produced by faith in God to be different—even when I am neither respected nor understood by those who do not know God?” Do you have the kind of faith in God that produces that kind of courage?

Truly, the knowledge of God makes people different. Someday those who know God will be part of a place and world where they belong because they “fit.” May your knowledge of God make you that kind of person!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 1 December 2005

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