When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40, NIV). Loving my neighbor as myself means caring about her flourishing as much as I do my own. This is a biblically-directed form of social justice if you will. It’s not about being in power or having the most goods; it’s about being committed to the flourishing of all people. Only, what does it mean for us to flourish?
Flourishing carries the idea of plants budding and blooming—figuratively, it has the sense of “breaking out.” Think of a rosebud under the warm sun unfurling its petals until its fragrance and beauty are displayed. “Breaking out” from the ravages of sin comes from being in a relationship with Christ. In Him, we burst forth from the bondage of darkness into His marvelous light, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”(John 8:36). Our neighbors and ourselves blossom through His Word’s wisdom, His Spirit’s help, and the healing of being restored to God. The question is, how does God want us to be part of our neighbors’ thriving?
When a Jewish man asked Jesus who his neighbor was, He told him a parable about being a good neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). For the Jewish listener, the story’s gut-punch came when the “good neighbor” turned out to be from a race of people the Jews despised: the Samaritans. When I consider what person or group I avoid, judge, or look down on, secretly or outwardly, I discover who I do not love as a neighbor. To the Lord, every human being is valuable and created in His image. Christ died to set them free and give them abundant life. Through prayer, I can challenge my attitudes and adopt love toward my neighbor.
Additionally, through commitment, I will care for my neighbors’ needs like the Good Samaritan did for the man assaulted by robbers and left to die. Through Satan’s work in the world, people are attacked in various ways and left in the ditch, some to die. Christ tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It takes faith and obedience for me to look at the damage done to the person in the ditch. It’s not easy to do. Then I must choose to cross the street and stretch out my hand to help with her need. As I do these things, loving my neighbor as myself transforms my neighbor and me so we can flourish to the glory of God—breaking out of sin’s hold.
By loving our neighbor as ourselves, we answer the prophet Micah’s call, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). In this way, established by our God, our neighbor, ourselves, and our society are transformed for the good.
Nancy is a guest blogger with a desire to help equip and inspire women in their walk with the Lord. Check out her bio for more about Nancy and her books. Listen to our many Bible studies here. Tune in to your favorite radio station, listen to our podcast on iTunes, or listen through TuneIn, Stitcher, or Spotify online radio.