Actively loving our neighbors

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

Romans 13:8-10 – “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”

Paul writes this passage in the context of being faithful with the State authorities, paying taxes, and culminating in verse 14 by “putting on the Lord Yeshua.” It’s as if all of Paul’s logic in the daily life of the believer is wrapped up in “throwing off the deeds of darkness, and putting on the armor of light,” ( v. 12).

The key aspect of this armor of light is love; not the syrupy, undefined, wishy-washy love of our current pop culture, but a love that has a definite purpose and character. Paul defines this type of love as a love that does no wrong to a neighbor. It involves throwing off the deeds of darkness, which he defines as: “carousing and drunkenness…sexual impurity and promiscuity…quarreling and jealousy,” (v. 13). When we are acting in any of these ways with others, we are not acting in love. The armor of light can only be exposed when we “throw off” these “deeds.”

If we are to do no wrong to a neighbor, it implies that we should do right to our neighbor. In Hebraic thinking, there is no static condition in which we do neither good nor bad. If we are not doing good, then we are by default doing bad, and if we are not doing bad, then we are to be doing good. The text of Torah from which this principle of loving our neighbor is derived mentions we should not even hold any grudges against our neighbor.

Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.”

This specific command is dropped in the midst of all kinds of things we should not be doing to our neighbors (Leviticus 19:11-17):

  • do not steal from them
  • do not oppress them
  • do not rob from them
  • do not be unfair with them
  • do not spread slander about them
  • do not jeopardize their life
  • don’t harbor hatred toward them

According to Paul’s logic in Romans 13, these would all be included in “deeds of darkness.”

If these are the negative qualities, then the positive qualities contained within the armor of light must be the opposite:

  • give generously to them
  • cheer them up and support them
  • act with fairness
  • speak well of them
  • help to protect them
  • show practical love toward them

This practical outworking of a love that is defined in this manner shows what type of love the Bible is talking about when it comes to our neighbors. It is a love that acts in positive ways towards others. It doesn’t just think happy thoughts towards them, but it actively works to build them up and contribute to their well-being.

In what ways can you act in this manner toward your neighbors, friends, and family? All of these individuals come under the umbrella of “neighbors” in the biblical sense. How can you manifest the armor of light most practically and effectively? By looking at these brief examples, we can see it involves taking our focus off of ourselves (the deeds of darkness that serve our own pleasures and interests), and placing our focus instead on the needs of others for their benefit. This is how we can then begin to “put on Yeshua” by living out his command:

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

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