We shine best when we love one another. See, I said best, not brightest. When we let love light the way we’ll be hard pressed to go wrong. But this isn’t the flowers and chocolates love the world pushes on us this time of year.
Love Fulfills the Law
Remember back at the beginning of January when I invited you to Rise and Shine with me? We talked about this verse in Romans.
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;
for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand.
Therefore let us cast off the works of the darkness,
and let us put on the armor of light.”
Now we’re going to bring this idea full circle. The “And do this” in this passage refers back to the previous section of Scripture sub-titled in my Bible, “Love Your Neighbor.”
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
To shine, we have to wake up and love God with all our heart and mind and soul and love our neighbors as ourselves. Does that sound familiar? Jesus said it in Matthew 22:37-41 when a Pharisee tried to trip Him up by asking which of the commandments was the greatest. But wait a minute, that isn’t one of the 10 Commandments. Is Jesus teaching something new?
The Standard of Love
In the verses immediately following my verse for the year, Jesus raises the bar to a whole new level.
Until Jesus preached here most folks would have assumed scribes and Pharisees were some of the shiniest Israelites around. But their brightness blinded them to the true requirements for righteousness. Faith in Jesus.
For the next 27 verses Jesus completely dismantles the religious teaching of the day. In several short segments beginning with, “You have heard,” He reveals that even the external manifestations (not murdering, not committing adultery, etc) of righteous living outlined in the 10 Commandments were insignificant in the kingdom of God. That sin begins in the heart. Even hidden sin harms us. He taught His followers that the law was more than just a long list of shoulds and should nots.
You see, Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law, He came to model a higher standard. Love.You see, Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law, He came to model a higher standard: Love. #love #lovelightstheway #reallove Click To Tweet
Love Your Enemies
I don’t know about you, but there are days when I find it hard to love even the people who love me back. Yet, Matthew 5 ends with a section titled Love Your Enemies. It is (usually) fairly easy to love our families and friends. But Jesus said, even secular society often meets this mark. If we really want to shine we have to love our enemies. Jesus died on the cross because God loves the world. He hung there for the sins of even those who cursed, persecuted, and hated Him. Even for all those “who so evers” who refuse to believe He loves them. Not just then, but today, too.
To shine we have to be different than those who live in darkness.
Jesus freed us from the burden of keeping the law so we could fulfill it by loving others. The law is less about how little you sin and more about how much you love. I imagine it is harder for me to love my enemies than it is to keep all the extra mandates the Pharisees added to the 10 Commandments (I’d have a sweet checklist for that). But loving my enemies is the standard of righteousness He calls us to. That is how we will shine in the darkness.
Loving like Jesus (the go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, lay down your life, sin covering kind of love) makes no logical sense. But when we can love like He did, that is precisely when others will wonder why. When we will get to tell them about how much Jesus love us and them and the whole world. Because we will have no choice but to tell them only Jesus could inspire in us a desire to love like that.
Our love gains eternal value when it makes no earthly sense.Loving like Jesus (the go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, lay down your life kind of love) makes no logical sense. #love #shine Click To Tweet
Who is My Neighbor?
This is the question a wise guy asked Jesus. Who is this neighbor I’m supposed to love?
That’s when Jesus launched into the familiar story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37.
The priest and the Levite in the story certainly knew God’s Law, they probably taught it. Maybe they were even debating some of its finer points or dissecting the Hebrew etymology or teaching their traveling companions along their journey. They might have even been exhausted after having performed the duties God called them to assume in His Temple. Or maybe they didn’t want to transgress the fine print of Levitical law by soiling their pristine robes. Either way, they walked on the dark side of the street in Jesus’ story. They did not walk the path lit by love. Only the Samaritan did that.
Can you imagine how the priest and the Levite might have defended themselves if Jesus confronted them about their behavior? “My Lord, our conduct broke no Laws. We didn’t mean to cause that man harm. We couldn’t be certain that he was clean enough for us to approach.”
Legalism. Apathy. Fear.
Those are the emotions guiding their decisions that day. Not love. They passively tried to avoid breaking the law, instead of actively taking the path illuminated by love. Only the Samaritan, whose people had been enemies of the Jews for for centuries loved his neighbor that day. Only the Samaritan shone with God’s glory that day.
Strangely enough, the Greek word “plesion” translated to neighbor in these verses comes from the Greek “pelas” which simply means near or close by. If that doesn’t blast all our excuses, I don’t know what will. Who near by you needs love?
Let Love Light the Way
Remember the difference between knowledge and wisdom we discussed in last year’s Word Nerd Wednesday posts? It’s not enough just to know what God’s Word says. To be wise, we have to apply it to how we live.
My boys have an annoying habit. When they are caught in a mess, they like to say, “I didn’t mean to.” My response to them is just as predictable: “Mean not to.” In other words actively put forth the effort to do right and you’ll be less likely to mess up.
The same principle applies to us as we shine. If we actively let love lead our every decision, we’ll be less likely to tarnish our shine. My key verse for the year, isn’t just a passive call to refrain from sinning, but to actively do good. To actively love God and our neighbor, so that others might join us in glorifying God.
Love actively to avoid sinning accidentally.
You see, even in the Psalms, there was more of an active and positive component to holiness. Not only are we to depart from evil, but also do good.
Depart from evil and do good.
I say depart from evil by doing good. The more heart space we devote to loving others, the less room we leave for sin to take root.
God is love. So, to shine like Jesus we must love the Lord our God with all our hearts and minds and souls and then love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
To shine for God’s glory we’ve got to let love light the way!Love actively to avoid sinning accidentally. #love #shine #lovelightstheway Click To Tweet
Who can you love today? Do you know someone who needs to know how much God loves them? How might your life look different if you loved actively?
Shine Wrap Up
Catch up on any of the posts you missed in this series here:
This wraps up our series on Shine, but I have thousands of words I haven’t shared with you here. So I’m toying with the idea of creating an e-book. Would you be interested in more? Like restoring our shine or how God refines it? Or perhaps making sense of the difference between letting our light shine and not making our good deeds known before men?
(^^^click the link^^^)
Exciting Announcement for Lent
On Wednesday I’m launching something I’m excited about. Yes, Wednesday is Valentines Day, but it is also Ash Wednesday. How cool is that coincidence?! Anyhow, our Lenten series is “Master Your Mess & Discover God’s Best.” I’ve got a couple of friends joining me here on the blog to talk about mastering our spiritual messes and I’m doing a 40 (+6) day challenge on Facebook to help us master our physical messes. Click the link to join the group today —> Master Your Mess
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Faith On Fire, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Soul Survival, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday, Salt and Light, and Becoming Press’s Writer Wednesday.