February 10, 2014

Love God, Your Neighbour, and Yourself By Sharon Espeseth

Who Is Testing Whom?

"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" the law expert asked to test Jesus.

"What is written in the Law?" Jesus asked. "How do you read it?"

Confidently the man responded, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself."

"You have answered correctly," Jesus responded.
"Do this and you will live."

Testing the Master further, the man asked, "And who is my neighbour?"

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the man beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The priest didn't help the man. Nor did the Levite. But the Samaritan did. Samaritans, considered pagans or "half-Jews," were held in contempt by the Jews.

Jesus asked the law-abiding Jew, which of the three men would he consider a neighbour to the robbers' victim. "The one who showed mercy," the man answered.

"Go and do likewise," Jesus answered. (Luke 10: 25-37)

Go and Do Likewise

That's what Jesus asks us to do, even if doing so is uncomfortable. We are to show mercy to people in need, be that physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial. Jesus warned that there's nothing outstanding about loving those who love us; the challenge comes when that person is unkind, unreasonable, or unsavoury. Jesus asks us to love our enemies and pray for those who don't treat us well.

This kind of loving is difficult and God is well aware of that. Discussing the topic of "Christian Perfection" in My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers clarifies that Christian perfection is different than human perfection. (December 2) In this devotion, he explains that if we strive on our own to attain that kind of perfection, our efforts will all be to our own glory. Then a person might think, If I could be so loving and perfect, I don't need God.

". . . Love your neighbour as yourself."

Looking in the Concordance of my NIV Bible, I find the phrase, " . . . love your neighbour as yourself" in six books of the Bible: once in Leviticus and five times in the New Testament. Important concepts bear repeating. We know God wasn't encouraging us to love ourselves in a proud, self-absorbed way.

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), Jesus shares ideas of how we should be in the world. Life will not always be "rosy," but God will bless us even, or especially, in adversity. Because this chapter is familiar to us, we often read it quickly. I recently read the passage in Eugene Peterson's The Message. Here the words jumped off the page, so I read and reread this portion prayerfully over several days.

Blessings on the Poor in Spirit

Even as Christians, we can berate ourselves for not being patient enough, smart enough, courageous enough, talented . . . Most of us have been poor in spirit at times in our lives. Peterson, a Greek scholar and theologian, paraphrases Christ's words, "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."

What does it mean to be meek? For this verse, Peterson says, "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."

If these verses comfort you, read The Beatitudes in The Message online. If we can learn to accept ourselves for who we are and do for God what we can, we'll realize we don't have to go around apologizing and hiding our real selves. 
Oswald Chambers says, "God's purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants." That's what I can do: spend more time with my loving Creator, read His Word, and let Him guide me.

Prayer: Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.


  1. maureen fiebich10:46 pm GMT-7

    You "nailed" it Sharon! Well said. I always
    appreciate the words of "The Message". I'll check it out for the "Beatitudes".

  2. You've made me consider something, Sharon. Often we equate "love your neighbour" with fixing the person's life. In the parable of the good Samaritan, the man met his neighbour's immediate need, but then left him so both could get on with their lives.

    I often struggle with accepting my feeble efforts because I think I should be able to fix things (and people) that are really God's to fix. When I can't, I feel like a failure. Your article shows that God never expects me to fix, only to meet a need when I'm able. That's all he asks. I can do that!

  3. I'm heading up a "grief recovery" type affinity group for 5 weeks, beginning tomorrow night. Your quote from the Message, "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule", goes right along with tomorrow night's study! Thanks!

  4. I appreciate your comments, ladies. It's good to know when someone figures I've nailed it, Maureen. Basically I'm just quoting and talking about God's Word.

    Bobbi, I an identify strongly with this, because I have also struggled with what is my job and what is the fixee's job. Books like Living Like Mary in a Martha World and also Codependent No More have helped me with this. They both say basically that we do our best and leave the rest to God. Hard, but more efficient than when I get out my fixing tools.

    Esther, If anything I've offered suits your topic for you grief recover group, Praise God. How about Peterson's paraphrase of "Blessed are they that mourn."? He writes, "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

    Blessings to all of you!

  5. Great words Sharon. God cares for Us - all the time. And there is always enough love from Him to each person. To be able to do that ourselves takes the Holy Spirit and our willingness to make the choice.
    Janis www.janiscox.com

  6. Thank you for sharing God's word, Sharon! I read the beatitudes from the Message as you suggested, and it's such a delight to see the truth come alive in this translation. I love reading your posts, thank you for sharing your heart.

    Pam M.

  7. Thanks, Janis and Pam, for your comments. The InScribe is a great place to share our ideas and concerns.

  8. Adding my thanks for a beautiful post and timely reminder

  9. Thanks for the encouraging words.


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