The weekly devotion with beckyjohn is sent out weekly to subscribers. Its main thrust is to encourage Christians to be the light that God has called us to be in whichever spheres we are in.  The Weekly Devotional is written with  Africa in mind.  
THE ULTIMATE TEST OF OUR LOVE FOR GOD IS HOW WE TREAT OUR NEIGHBOR
Jul 21, 2017
REFLECTIONS:

Never undertake anything for which you wouldn't have the courage to ask the blessing of heaven (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

·         A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good (Mark Briggs).

·         In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them (A. W. Tozer)

·         Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God (C.S. Lewis).

·         The greatest need in Christendom today is not necessarily more training seminars and conferences. The supreme need is for men and women to be broken before God. (Delwyn McAlister)

TEXT:Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Would you like to receive this devotional on your email?



Read Previous Devotionals:
Read - the walk of faith requires grasp of brokenness that leave one walking with a limp
Read - the danger of political identity shaping lived experience of faith.

  

Aconversation recorded in Luke 10:25-37, where an expert in law wanted to knowwhat he needed to do in order to inherit the kingdom of God, should have been continued. As Jesus explained to the lawyer, a neighbor is any other person who is in need.What is problematic is loving a neighbor whose philosophy is different. This isparticularly trying in political campaigns where the neighbor’s view and choicecontribute to the winning candidate who is not your choice.   Though the political philosophy begins with the question of whatought to be people’s relationship to society and to one another, in a healthysociety people’s views differ.  Loving the neighbor whose vote willminimize your preferred candidate’s access to power feels like loving thebandit or the robber who is active and aggressively engaged in what harms youand your friends. The language one uses reveals the struggle of opposingthinking is the emphasis on ethnic, racial or religious differences as a way ofcamouflaging the intrinsic distaste and dislike of the neighbor.  How doyou love the neighbor who is not converting and supports the candidate you donot consider able to handle the position without holding a grudge?

The basicstandard that God expects of his people is to love him exclusively and to lovethe neighbor as self (Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:27).  It is clear that it iskeeping of these inseparable commandments have profound implications in thislife and eternity. This is because of what Jesus said, “Whoever has mycommands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will beloved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John14:21).   Loving the invisible God is a lot easier because it isan internal passion of the heart. That makes loving the neighbor as an outwardmanifestation and the visible expression of loving your neighbor as you loveyourself be a real spiritual and emotional war zone.

 

WHY IT ISIMPORTANT TO LOVE THE NEIGHBOR

 

Love is the foundation on which Christian faith is founded. It is notkeeping of the rules, or getting involved in activities that are assumed toplease God, good as they are, for without love the faith is hollow.  Thatlove is like a coin whose legality cannot be accepted if one side is defaced.In the same way Christian faith is based on undivided love of God and love ofneighbor as one loves him/herself. That then means love of neighbor cannot beleft to the opinions of the people because it is part of the whole relationshipwith God.   Why it is important to love the neighbor:

Obedience to God’s command – Jesus said that keeping the command of loving the neighbor is tokeep the whole law.  Since love is the cornerstone around which everyother requirement of God is built, it is through learning tolove others that believers faith is fundamentally rooted.

Assurance of remaining in Jesus love- Loving others is not natural. Thehuman nature and the fears that people face incline them to focus onself-love.  To love others makes the joy that comes from Christ remain inthe believer. As Christ has loved so are we to love others. As the Father has loved me, so have Iloved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep mycommands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’scommands and remain in his love. 11 I have told youthis so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John15:9-11). Having a Christ like loverequires more than a pleasant response to those who enter into our lives. God’slove requires reaching out to others and enfolding them in our hearts andlives.

Prioritizing love as way of life- People’s priorities slowlyturn them into the kind of person they become and also shape their destinies.It is enriching to love those who are lovable but to love those who holdcontrasting beliefs is certainly a special assignment that requires supernaturalassistance which only God through Christ has promised to provide. Jesus modelledlove for others by his life. . “Mycommand is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:2).

 

HOW TOLOVE THE NEIGHBOR

 

Jesuscame to model how to love a neighbor who is not easy to please without being avictim of his/her behavior. The Pharisees were set on catching Jesus on thewrong and so they kept vigilant over his actions and words. How would anyworthy human being complain that another who was dead and buried was givenanother lease of life?  John 11: 45-57 explain the dynamics ofthe discussions of those who went to tell the Pharisees and Caiaphas whosecounsel is that it is better to have one man die than lose a whole nation.  Thisexplains that Jesus knew the struggle of loving those neighbors who comethrough as enemies and also praying for persecutors.  To love thedifficult neighbor begins by,

Settingthe mind on seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33) - That begins by valuing the kingdomabove everything else.  Jesus Christ explained that what makes thispossible is to remain in Christ as Jesus remained in God the father. "As the Father has loved me, so have I lovedyou. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). To remain in Christ means oneis exposed to his word and has a prayer relationship with him and that inclinesone’s will and actions to reveal that emphasis.  That believer who isseeking the kingdom of God first and his righteousness makes the burden ofChrist be his/her burden and see it as sin when the unredeemed nature shows up.Confess the sin of struggling to love the political candidate whose views donot agree with what you would prefer. It is sin if one has difficulties inresting on Christ’s ability to be sovereign in supplying the enabling power forpeople to act in what is best as he has designed in heaven. Remember the prayeris “May Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. To doubt God’spower is a very serious sin that requires immediate confession and repentance.

Refuse toconform to what is popular unless it aligns with the word of God – That is what Jesus modeled by sticking towhat was God’s agenda for him. The human nature seeks popularity, but God makesit clear what should be his disciples’ priority. Whenever self-effort,self-glory, self-seeking or self-promotion are prioritized, then ulteriormotives are prioritized.  Prioritizing ulterior motives over thekingdom of God priorities cannot result in highest good for people. It is truesome politicians intend to pursue general well-being of the people that bringssatisfaction, and increase in wealth for more people, while others prioritizeinfluence that creates hatred and divisions among the people. Listen to themind of God who says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  Andwhat does the Lord require of you? To act justly and tolove mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).  Jesuslove for the Pharisaic neighbor was to speak out what was truth, teach the wordof God and act in what revealed God’s love.  Might you be silent when youneed to be teaching and doing what is right?  

Stand onwhat is right and truthful – Thebest way to love the neighbor is by being consistent and remaining firm on whatis truthful and right. To get into propaganda and propagation of half truthsabout others is dancing with evil. Since the rejection of people is immediateand painful while the judgment of God seems far-off and intangible, it isimportant to keep asking “Am I worried more about the opinion of people or thejudgment of God?” If you find your mind toiling with 1 John 1:9 that God isjust and he will forgive, you are on the borderline of treating Goddisrespectfully and taking his grace for granted. 

The onlyhope for a disciple is to be totally hidden in Christ. Loving the neighboris not exposing oneself as victim to the desires that are contrary to what oneknows to be right.  Jesus did not seek to be one with those who devaluedhis teaching and actions; instead he persisted in doing good. The abilityto forgive, love and desire the mind to be filled with what is Godly andbeneficial to man, comes when one has the kind of love that Jesus had. Youcan see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him (A.W.Tozer). The love Jesus had arose from his relationship with the father and thatis what made him attentive to people. His love for the neighbour includedrebuking, correcting wrong theology, teaching what is right and encouraging inaddition to healing, casting out demonic powers among others.  Jesus did not allow the opinion of those closeto him shape his love for the neighbor. His disciples wanted him to leave alonethe blind who were calling out his name, the mothers who brought their childrento be touched by Jesus and even the Syro–Phoenician woman whose daughter wasoppressed by demons.   Jesus Christ loved us because he yielded tothe love of God who indwelt in him.  God is love and it is when we can sayas the Psalmist “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light onmy path” (Psalm 119:105) that it becomes possible to love those who aredifferent and desire their welfare. Remember we are in the world as God’srepresentatives. Loving God is a lot easier than loving one’s neighbour.Your view of God has such profound personal implications.  Do youlove your neighbor?

 

"Whatan incredible witness it is to a lost and fearful society when the Christianacts like a child of God, living under the loving sovereignty of the HeavenlyFather." (Henry Blackaby)