“Love Your Neighbor”

Bring Your Neighbor Day

By Evan Bartholomew, Lead Minister.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8-10 NIV.

Orianna and Maile get baptized at the same time! They are nicknamed "didymus," which means "twin" in Greek!

Orianna and Maile get baptized at the same time! They are nicknamed "didymus," which means "twin" in Greek! (photo by Chris Directo)

Welcome to Bring Your Neighbor Day! You might be wondering, what exactly is this “Bring Your Neighbor Day” all about? Simply put, it is a chance for the members of the church to display our love for God by loving our neighbors – you! According to the Bible, this love is the “fulfillment of the law,” the whole enchilada, the grand slam, all that, a bag of chips, and more! But, fulfillment of what law? It would be hard for us to imagine being pulled over by the police, because we weren’t loving towards the guy who cut us off in the intersection, or being raided by the FBI for a lack of love crime spree. Civil law seems to care very little about how much we love others. Yet, to God, loving Him and then loving our neighbors is the summation of every law!

Those of us who have had a religious influence while growing up, remember the Sunday School classes where we’ve had to recite from memory the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house… your neighbor’s wife… or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:1-17 NIV) Interestingly, the first four of the ten commands have to do with our relationship with God, while the last six have to do with our relationships with our neighbors. Thus, the Old Testament Law can be condensed into loving God first, and then loving our neighbors second!

Still there is something missing. While the Ten Commandments hold directives on what NOT to do concerning our neighbors, it fails to let us know what we SHOULD do. Thankfully, we have other places in the Bible that point us towards the answer to this question: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:14 NIV) Well, why didn’t you just say so? Most of us wouldn’t want other people to steal from us, commit adultery with our wife/husband, murder us, etc… Then common sense tells us not to do that to other people. But even more so, how DO we want other people to treat us? I’m sure that detailed thoughts of reclining on a throne, sipping on freshly served lemonade, being fanned with a giant palm frond, someone feeding you grapes, and all at the expense of everyone else, are running through your mind at this point. Careful now, you might be inclined to do that for everyone else if that’s how you want to be loved! All jokes aside, let’s look at some of the many ways that the Scriptures teach us to love each other:

“ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER , then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7-8 NIV)

The brothers serve and clean for the church's only veteran — Robbie! (photo by Robbie Craddock)

The brothers serve and clean for the church's only veteran — Robbie! (photo by Robbie Craddock)

Each of us has faced the battle to some degree of trying to gain acceptance in certain social groups, into schools, on sports teams, or even into some careers. We wait for the giant red stamp to be slammed down in full force, reading “ACCEPTED” in bold letters! But unfortunately, many of us have had to face the sad disappointment of rejection instead. After a while, that stamp that read “ACCEPTED” in our minds seems to morph into “UNACCEPTABLE.” We then feel as if there is no place, no purpose, and no potential for us. This was the feeling for me after a rough summer in Junior High School. Being at a stage in life where hormones were as new to me as warm is to an Eskimo, I asked four girls to be my girlfriend in the short period of a month. I had option “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”, put in order according to their rank of prettiness. I thought it was a sure thing… I mean – four options! Sadly, four options turned into four rejections. “UNACCEPTABLE” became the way I began to view myself. Luckily, in Christianity, every person is “ACCEPTABLE,” and is accepted as long as they are willing to live the life of a true disciple of Jesus

“But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, SERVE ONE ANOTHER in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

Who would have thought that they would have the game of tennis in the Bible? (In tennis, a zero score is “love”) Wouldn’t we “love” it if that is really what this is talking about? Who likes to serve other people? Even people who get paid to do it usually don’t like it. On the other hand, those who serve people with a genuine heart to love others are usually the happiest people on Earth. They are also blessed with a lot of close friends. Who doesn’t like a servant who serves you without asking for anything? No, don’t start thinking about the throne, the grapes, and the lemonade again! The idea is to serve OTHERS! Ironically, serving others tends to get our hearts and minds focused on other people rather than ourselves, and therefore not to “indulge [our] sinful nature.”

“SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV)

Submit, tap-out, give-up, fold, cash in the chips, retire, drop out, yield, surrender, throw your hands in the air ’cause you just don’t care! Usually, these words aren’t the types of things we encourage people to do. The words of Winston Churchill come to mind, “Never, never, never, never quit.” Yet, when it comes to each other, if there is no submission (or compromise), there can be no close relationship. This is not a compromise of conviction, beliefs, or standards, but a compromise of personality, opinion, culture, and sometimes comfort! As we allow others into our lives, we also allow their personality, their opinion, their culture, etc… however conflicting with our own it may be. Therefore, for the sake of “[loving] each other deeply,” (I Peter 4:8 NIV) each of us has to submit, tap out, give up… You get the point!

“But ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)

Renee, Orianna and Maile (l-r) all get encouraged after the brothers take them on a date!

Renee, Orianna and Maile (l-r) all get encouraged after the brothers take them on a date! (photo by Robbie Craddock)

“For every one negative thing you say, you need to say ten positive,” said my wife almost weekly early on in our marriage! My mind would quickly fire back, (rarely my mouth) “Wow, that’s a lot of positive things to say.” The thought came not because of disagreement with her statement, but because I typically didn’t have ten positive things to say. Negativity resigns in the deepest core of my thinking, and therefore came out in my speech. One of the things that used to baffle me on the show American Idol is how so many people who CAN’T “sing a lick” actually think that they CAN sing like Mariah Carey! After watching the show a few times, the reason became evident to me. There was always at least one person in their lives who constantly and consistently told them they COULD sing. After a while, the vocally inept individuals started to believe the lies. If positive encouragement can work for something like that, how true it is that it can work for everything else too. We need daily encouragement!

“Therefore CONFESS YOUR SINS TO EACH OTHER and PRAY FOR EACH OTHER so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16 NIV)

Are you serious? Even the dirty, nasty secrets we’ve held on to our whole lives? Yes! With each sin we stack up on our own personal sin pile, comes a scoop of guilt. The guilt is actually a blessing from God, because it is what drives us to change. However, if we never talk about the sin, the guilt stays, and we’re never “healed.” Also, the Scripture doesn’t say to confess to a qualified professional, a priest, a school counselor, our parents, but to each other. What a concept! We don’t even have to pay someone to listen to all of our issues! But we do have to be willing to share our issues with each other.

The sisters pose after Maile's and Orianna's baptisms.

The sisters pose after Maile's and Orianna's baptisms. (photo by Chris Direct0)

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and SPEAK TRUTHFULLY TO HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25 NIV) Wait! Before you rush off to say all those things you’ve been wanting to say for so long to all those people, you must keep in mind another Scripture. The Bible also says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV) That second passage changes things a bit! We must speak truthfully to each other, but tactfully, lovingly, empathetically, kindly, and any other type of corresponding “-ly” you can think of! One of the hardest truths I’ve ever had to hear someone tell me was that I was not a true Christian. Although inside I already knew it, admitting it to myself and others was something unexpected. “I’ve grown up in a ‘Christian’ family,” I reasoned. I also thought, “I’ve gone to church almost my whole life.” But although I may have been living the life of a Christian as defined by society, I wasn’t living like a disciple as described by the Bible. I needed to hear the truth. Now, out of all the truths I’ve ever been told, that is the one I appreciate the most. Not because it was the easiest to listen to, but because it produced the greatest and the best changes in my life!

These are just some of the ways the Scriptures teach us to love our neighbors. I hope that since you have joined us today, you feel loved, accepted, served, encouraged and as though you got a good dosage of Scriptural truth in you! We are grateful for you joining us today, and pray that you will feel drawn by the Spirit to keep on coming to a place where “love is the fulfillment of the law.” To God be the glory!