Remember when the lawyer asked Jesus what was the most important law? After declaring “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” Jesus declares the second part of the Great Commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
The implication is that if you love God, you will love your neighbor. By the way, Jesus’ definition of neighbor is anyone you come in contact with. That means, Christ expects you to be patient with the slow driver, bless the man with 34 items in the express check-out, share your lunch with the student who left his at home, hug the lady who lost her husband –even though she gossiped about you yesterday, and help chase down a lost puppy late at night (the same puppy who has kept you up barking each night for the past two weeks.) It means blessing those who bless you, and blessing those who curse you.
That’s a really high standard, but it’s not the end of the discussion.
Later, after Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet, He raised the standard even higher: “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” (John 13:34-35).
Interesting. Jesus takes it up a notch. Now, instead of loving the way we love ourselves, we should love the way Christ loves. What’s the difference? EVERYTHING.
Unbelievers know how to love themselves. I was born –like you- loving myself. It doesn’t require any divine transformation.
However, to love the way Jesus loves involves something greater than myself. It is beyond my capacity. After all, Christ’s definition of love is dying for ungrateful, rebellious sinners (Romans 5:8). I simply can’t love this way without being transformed from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
Ultimately, loving the way Christ loves involves the impartation of grace to others. In and of myself, I have nothing to offer. After all, I’m a poor beggar too. In this regard, Christ’s command is just as impossible as the command to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
However, IN CHRIST I can do all things (Philippians 4:13) -The key words being “In Christ.” You see, just as Christ loved the unlovable (like you and me) through His physical body while Has here on earth, now He loves the unlovable through His spiritual body (believers) while He is in Heaven. He pours His grace through me to be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-2).
No wonder, before He left earth, Jesus gave us this important command –to paraphrase, “Continue my work on earth. Don’t worry; what is impossible with you is possible with me. So let me love through you.”
You could sum it up like this:
1) Jesus loves your neighbor perfectly.
2) Jesus wants to manifest His love to your neighbor through you.
3) The only obstacle is you.