Exploring the Biblical meaning of 'Loving Our Neighbors’

Chapter 1

What Does "Loving Our Neighbors" Mean?

"Love wholeheartedly ... give thanks and praise – then you will discover the fullness of your life." – David Steindl-Rast.


One day my mother helped throw her littlest brother out of our haymow.

The haymow (where we stored the winter’s hay high up under our barn’s roof) was one of the five farm kids’ favorite play places.

The farm cats loved the haymow too. There they could run, jump, and chase each other to their hearts’ content. That day one of the friskiest felines misjudged the edge and fell out. The youngsters all watched, fascinated, as it somersaulted, twisted, turned, and finally landed on its feet, unhurt, on the wooden "driveway" a story-and-a-half below.

"Did you see that!?" the kids asked. Their next question was perfectly logical (well, almost): "Do you suppose a person could land on his feet like that?"

Those budding test engineers could only think of one way to find out. The other four (including my mother) grabbed their youngest brother’s arms and legs, dragged him kicking and and screaming to the edge, threw him out, and watched to see what would happen.

The results? First, Gilbert didn’t land on his feet. (Amazingly, he didn’t break any bones either.) Second, it was about two weeks before any of the other four children could sit down again!

What does that have to do with loving our neighbors? It’s simple. Real life can throw any of us "out of the haymow" at any time. Sickness. Layoff. Divorce. Accidents. Crimes. Natural disasters. Those and many other events may make "safe landings" impossible. And then the Bible teaches we are to be there to pick each other up, help mend any broken bones, and get each other back on our feet, healed.


Why should we love our neighbors?

If two of your children were twins, would you give one most of your attention and ignore the other? Serve the first a heaping plate at mealtime and give the second a few leftovers? Clothe one well and dress the other in hand-me-downs?

Of course not! You’d treat them both alike, wouldn’t you?

Which Biblical twins stand out most prominently? My vote goes to the twin commandments to love God and love our neighbors.

The Bible emphasizes how nearly identical those twins are. So shouldn’t we treat them exactly that way? Shouldn’t we give the same attention to studying both? Teaching both? Living both?

Certainly, that would please God.

Do we?

Perhaps your church does. I hope so!

I loved the churches I’ve attended. They were warm; wonderful; "alive." Worship was beautiful, inspiring, uplifting. We felt God love us and learned to love him. We saw and experienced genuine miracles.

We loved that first "twin" wholeheartedly. That was good. But what did we miss? With a few beautiful exceptions (some of which will appear in this book), we paid very little attention to the second.

Why? Speaking for myself, I knew that we should love our neighbors. But I thought that just meant being nice to people who lived near me. I heard many rich sermons on loving God. But I don’t remember a single one, ever, that explained who our neighbors were or how God wanted us to love them.

I wasn’t alone. Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," asked "How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God’s compassion for the poor?" (Timothy C. Morgan, "Purpose Driven in Rwanda," Christianity Today, October 2005, quoted in "Make Poverty Personal" by Ash Barker, Baker Books, 2009.)

Like Warren, I never realized that the Bible talks more about the poor – including immigrants, orphans, and widows - than any other "neighbors." Nor did I realize how many kinds of "neighbors" existed. I had no idea how God expected us to love them. I didn’t know the rich blessings promised for obeying, nor the curses for failing!

Were others like me?

    • When a national Christian conference asked attendees about their priorities, not one answer mentioned any Biblical part of "loving our neighbors!" Not one!
    • In the eight years I managed a Christian college library I never saw one book on it. (That’s changed. Now, thank God, the number is growing rapidly.)
    • Many churches don’t even mention it in their belief statements or lists of volunteer tasks.

Have vital parts of "loving our neighbors" become "forgotten commandments?" Is Richard Stearns of World Vision right when he calls them "The Hole in our Gospel?" Just possibly, yes.

If we honestly want to follow God, we need to change that.


Finally God got my attention, by "clubbing me over the head" more times than I want to count. (I seem to need that a lot.) I began "digging" to see what the Bible really said. That search changed my life. There were Scriptures I never knew existed. Some I was living, and some I wasn’t. Demanding faith challenges. Calls to selflessness and action.

This book tells what I found. It includes over 3,600 Scriptures, and many of my own family’s experiences. I hope those experiences will show that to genuinely love our neighbors we must convert our faith into real-life actions. And that as we do so, God may give us marvelous, unforeseen, deeply moving experiences.

Those experiences take us past theory and theology, to reality.

What’s the best way to learn about love? To read a book? Or to fall in love? And which has greater impact? Watching a manned space launch on TV? Or personally seeing the astronauts’ fiery, thunderous ascent into the heavens?

Experiences strengthen our faith. One pastor told us: "the man who has an experience is never at the mercy of the man who has a theory."

The early Israelites followed God as long as their leaders experienced his works:

"Israel obeyed the Lord throughout the lifetimes of Joshua and the other old men who had personally witnessed the amazing deeds the Lord had done for Israel" (Josh. 24:31; Judg. 2:7-9; also Deut. 4:9, Ps. 22:30-31).

How can we experience loving both God and our neighbors? Let’s find out.


What are the Bible’s two most important commandments?

Jesus’ answer appears in three Gospels.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments" (from Matt 22:36-40, NLT; also read Matt. 19:18-19; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10: 25-37).

In the fourth Gospel, Jesus raises the standard! He says, "I demand that you love each other as much as I love you" (John 15:12; 13:34-35).

That’s a lot of love!


Where does "Loving God" first appear? In Deut. 6:4-5: "O Israel, listen: Jehovah is our God, Jehovah alone. You must love him with all your heart, soul, and might."

What about "Loving neighbors?" That’s from Lev. 19:18: "Love your neighbor as yourself, for I am Jehovah." Later in that chapter, Moses tells Israel to love one kind of "neighbor" (foreigners) "as yourself" (v. 33-34).

Also read: Deut. 10:12-13; 10:18-19; 30:6; Joel 2:12-13.


Did you notice? Neither of these passages talks about what we’re to believe! They both talk about what we should do!

Even in a gospel of faith, "doing" is crucial).

"Remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. So don’t fool yourselves" (James 1:22; also see Hos. 10:12; James 2:20; John 14:15-16; 14:23-24, 15:9-10).

So what are we to do?

Love God! (And obey him; see John 14: 15, 21, 23, 24.)

Love our neighbors! (And help them; see James 2:12-17.)


Those are simple, aren’t they? It’d be easy to assume all Christians agree. But some don’t. Inexplicably, and I believe unintentionally, many church leaders support the views of conservative politicians who follow the philosophies of prominent atheist Ayn Rand, author of "Atlas Shrugged." The late Chuck Colson cautioned that her followers "are undermining the gospel."

Rand’s journal said "I want to be known as the greatest enemy of religion." She taught "There is no such thing as the "common good;" "I am not my brother’s keeper;" "charity for those in need is not an ethical obligation." (In other words, "love yourself, not your neighbor.") Rand "ennobled selfishness, enshrined materialism." (Heidi Unruh, Evangelicals for Social Action, their e-Newsletter, 8/30/2011).

What’s our choice? To love God and our neighbors? Or follow those who teach the fruits of Rand’s atheism? Wouldn’t Jesus say that, however we got ourselves into this position, we must get out - and follow him?


"What is really needed to build the church is love" (1 Cor. 8:1).


What’s love like?

Is there any better answer than Paul’s?

"Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him" (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Did you notice some words Paul didn’t include? For instance, "approve. And "agree." Did Teen Challenge founder David Wilkerson approve of the drugs, sex, and violence-filled lifestyles of the gang kids God called him to help? Did he agree with it? Not at all! But he loved those youths deeply, and saw many of their lives changed. God calls us to love our neighbors whether or not we agree with them or approve of all they do.

Nor did Paul mention "zeal." Yes, if we love God wholeheartedly, we’ll have zeal. But our zeal must stay centered in love, both for God and for our neighbors. I’ve met zealous, intellectually committed ministers and laymen who showed no love. And when love is absent, we quickly get into trouble, right up to the point of fighting wars in the name of our religion.


What kind of love should we give God and our neighbors? The Greeks called it "agape" (ah-GAH-pay), a selfless, freely-giving love. Greg Boyd calls it "not a feeling one has ... rather a commitment one makes, a stance one takes toward another, and an activity one does ... a kind of love you can have ... when the other is your enemy ... the kind of love God had for us while we were yet sinners and the kind of love we are commanded to have toward all others. It is the kind of love God was aiming at in creating the world." (Boyd, "Repenting of Religion; Turning from Judgment to the Love of God." Baker, 2004, p. 24-25.)

"Agape" is a powerful love. It works when others fall short. Two of my children have been molested - one by a homosexual, one by a heterosexual. And my closest cousin was murdered by a paroled convict. Do you think I can "feel" ordinary love for those men? No! Not at all! The only way I can obey the Bible’s command to "love my enemies" is through "agape." With it, I can do acts of kindness and love; even to the "unlovable."


Does "loving our neighbors" mean to "feel" love or to "do" love?

We can feel love for our neighbors. "Gladly letting God have his way with you ... will make possible ... for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply" (2 Pet. 1:6-7).

Yet the "agape" love of Scripture teaches us to act, whether we "feel" or not. We’re to be supportive, to help; give time, food, money, clothing, and housing; be kind; visit, comfort, and encourage - whatever we’d do if we were ministering to Jesus.

"But if someone ... has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him - how can God’s love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God's side (1 John 3:17-19).

In agape, feeling and action unite. James and John say we must act to show our love (for instance, see John 14:15; 14:21; 14:23-24; 15:9-14; James 1:22; 2:14-17; and 2:20). Paul stresses that our acts must be motivated by love. "If I gave everything I have to poor people ... but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatsoever" (1 Cor. 13:3).

Biblical love means learning the real needs of our real neighbors. For Christians, it means asking "If that was Jesus, how would I help him?" It makes us reprioritize our actions, time, and money; and give of ourselves in a consistent, mature way. That loving starts in our families. It reaches out to our community, nation, and world.


Are loving God and loving our neighbors linked?


"Then I, the King, shall say ... ‘Come, blessed of my Father ... For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me.’

"Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you anything to drink? Or a stranger and help you? Or naked, and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’

"And I, the King, will tell them, ‘When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me!’ ... ‘When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me’ (Matt. 25:34-45; also read 1 John 4:7-12; 4:20-21).

Do we love and help our families? The poor? Widows? Orphans? Immigrants? Government officials? Sick? Handicapped? Brokenhearted? Elderly? Members of other churches? Prisoners? Enemies? We’re loving Jesus (John 14:21).

"We cannot love God unless we love each other ... We have all known loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love. It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause ... but not ... the brothers right next to us." (Doris Day, in ePistle, e-newsletter of the Evangelicals for Social Action, 1/22/2008.)

Should we love the poor in India? The homeless in Haiti? The man who’s lost his job and faces eviction? The lady who’s blind and homebound? The sick child whose single mother can’t earn enough to care for her?

Jesus told us that to love God we must love, and help, all of these.

If we don’t love both God and our neighbors, do we really love either one?


How can we grow to love God?

We each have unique experiences.

Mine? I grew up with grandparents who never went to church, and until my teens I rarely did either. I first heard of religion when a cousin walked into my upstairs bedroom and asked whether I was Catholic or Presbyterian. I’d never heard of either one, but didn’t think my five-year-old tongue could master the impossible-sounding word "Presbyterian," so I said "Catholic."

I did attend "released-time religious education," but mostly to help other boys make up our own words to the hymns.

Another cousin, Kermit, tried to touch the few kids in our isolated north woods neighborhood. He built a small log-cabin Sunday School, by hand, on a nearby hill. I enjoyed it. But, despite his good efforts, by my early teens I’d beome a full-fledged atheist.

Then our school bus routes changed, and a friend on the new bus began nagging me to go to church with him.

I resisted. The idea turned me off. But Jack didn’t quit. Finally, as much to get him off my back as anything, I went.

There I met joyful people! People filled with love! They told of genuine miracles that had happened to them. They’d had real experiences with a real God.

My atheism couldn’t survive those joy-filled people. There I experienced the "new birth."

But birth was only the beginning! Growing to know and love God? That took time! Lots of it!


My wife Yvonne attended an excellent church with a caring minister, yet never personally met God.

By age 27 her lungs were deteriorating badly. Her doctor gave her less than three years to live unless she moved to a warm climate.

Her response? She prayed for God’s help and pledged her life to him in return.

Yvonne kept that promise. After moving, she became active in a church young adult group in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I’d moved there a month earlier. We met the following spring, and were married the same summer.

But her life was still a mix of old and new. For instance, she practiced astrology enthusiastically.

Then we moved to San Diego. Yvonne was pregnant. Both sons from my first marriage were with us: one willingly, the other not. Turmoil caused Yvonne’s labor pains to start several months early. At her wits’ end, she threw herself on the altar at our church and cried "God, help!"

And God answered. He filled her with his Holy Spirit. And, for counselling on how to help my older son, our pastor referred us to a gentle, grandmotherly lady (Ruth) who lived both the "fruit" and the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit.

Ruth was sick. She couldn’t see us for a week. But then she shocked us. She told us that, while she’d prayed for us, Jesus had appeared to her in person and told her in detail what to tell us! She proved it by describing everything that had happened in our home that last week, and told me the painful steps I had to take to prevent a miscarriage (chapter 4).

Astrology? Yvonne never mentioned it again. She’d seen something better! She rapidly grew to know and love God. Though I’d been a Christian longer, she soon surpassed me.


How can we learn to love God?

First, want to love him.

Be honest. Be open. Admit "where you are."

How do you and your children love each other? Spending time together? Hugging? Talking? Asking questions? Do the same kinds of things with God! Do them daily! How would you feel if your children constantly watched TV, but only talked with you once a week?

Pray daily. Use your own words, but remember the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). Praise. Give thanks. Talk things over. Express love as honestly as you can. Ask "what do you want me to do today?" Pray for forgiveness. End with praise.

Learn about God. Read his "letters and diaries," the Bible. (Note Deut. 17:19-20.) Try using a good easy-to-understand modern-language version (there are many).

Finally, obey him. Love and obedience go together.

"The one who obeys me is the one who loves me; and because he loves me, my father will love him; and I will too" (John 14:21; 14:15; also see Isa. 29:13-14, 1 Chron 22:19).

As we reach out to him, he touches our spirits. Our love for him grows and our lives change. "It is not our love for God but his love for us" (1 John 4:10). "So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first" (1 John 4:19).

Also read: John 14:23-24; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:21-24; 4:16-18.


Is loving our neighbors just a New Testament teaching?

No. The 3,600 verses in this study come from every book in the Bible (not counting the Apocrypha). Over 2,400 are from the Old Testament, which Christians, Jews, and Muslims all embace. That means two-thirds of these verses come from all three heritages. Is God is calling all of us to love all of our neighbors?

But the New Testament does emphasize love heavily. "Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them ... Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other" (Rom. 12:9-10).

"Pay all your debts except the debt of love for others – never finish paying that! For if you love them, you will be obeying all of God’s laws, fulfilling all his requirements" (Rom. 13:8).

Also read: Matt. 7:12; John 15:13-18; Rom. 13:9-10; 1 Cor. 13:1-33; 14:1, 16:14, Eph. 1:15-16; 5:2; Phil. 1:8-11; 2:2-4; Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 5:13; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 John 2:7-11; 3:10-11; 3:23; 2 John v. 5-6.


What are some ways the Bible teaches us to "do" love?

Kindness: "your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God’s people" (Philemon v. 7); also read Job 6:14; Ps. 37:3; Prov. 3:3; Prov. 11:17; Prov. 31:26; Isa. 28:12; 1 Cor. 16:14-18; Col. 1:10; Jude 1:2).

Forgiveness: "Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others" (Col. 3:13; also Prov. 17:9; 2 Cor. 2:10-11, and more).

Patience: "Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love" (Eph. 4:2; also 1 Cor. 13:4; 2 Thess. 1:3-6).

Courtesy: "They must not speak evil of anyone, nor quarrel, but be gentle and truly courteous to all" (Titus 3:2. Another example: Phil. 4:5).

Mercy: "You should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others" (Col. 3:12; also Ps. 18:25; Prov. 27:10; Matt. 9:11-13; 18:33-35).

Helping: "In response to all he has done for us, let us outdo each other in being helpful and kind to each other and in doing good" (Heb. 10:24; also Deut. 22:1-4; Job 22:29-30; Prov. 12:12; 17:17; Isa. 58:4-12; Rom. 12:13; 16:1-2; 16:6; 2 Cor. 8:13-15; Gal. 6:2-3; 1 Pet. 4:8-11; 3 John v. 5-8).

Providing justice: "I want to see a mighty flood of justice" (Amos 5:24; also note Ps. 106:3; Prov. 21:3; Isa. 5:7; 56:1; 59:16; Jer. 9:23-24; 22:3-5; Ezek. 45:9-10; Hos. 12:6; Amos 5:15; Mic. 6:8).

Doing good: "You yourself must be an example to them of good deeds of every kind" (Titus 2:7; see also Ps. 37:18; Luke 6:31; Gal. 6:7-10; Eph. 5:15-16; 1 Thess. 1:2-3; 2 Thess 3:13; Titus 2:14; 3:8; James 3:13; Rev. 14:13).

Giving: "They should ... give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them" (1 Tim. 6:18-19; also read Josh. 22:7-8; Prov. 21:25-26; Isa. 32:5-8; Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:17-21; Luke 6:36-38; 11:41; 1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:1-2; 9:6-15; Eph. 4:28.)


For still more examples of ‘loving,’ see: 1 Sam. 20:16-17; Job 30:25; Prov. 3:29-30; Luke 9:47-48; John 15:9-13; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; Phil. 2:20; Col. 1:4; 1:8; 3:14; 1 Thess. 2:7-8; 3:12-13; 4:9-10; Philemon v. 20; Heb. 13:1-3; James 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 3:8; 5:14 (NIV); 1 John 5:1-4.

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself" – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Shouldn’t we just help people spiritually?

"I saw a little girl who couldn’t go to school because she didn’t have a pair of shoes. I saw an ... old woman dying of cancer in a hovel overrun by rats. I saw a boy who had lost his eyesight and both legs in war ... God, my heart and soul are sick. All I can say is help them, help them." (Marjorie Holmes, "I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God," Bantam Books, c1969, pp. 103-104.)


In 2003 two young Christian college students, Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis, decided to learn about homelessness first hand by living on the streets of six major American cities. One Sunday morning, hungry, Sam asked a pastor for food. The minister replied, "That’s not what we do here. We’re here to worship. We can’t confuse our purpose." (Mike Yankoski, "Under the Overpass," Multnomah Publishers, 2005, p. 148.)

Did Jesus teach worship? Certainly. But didn’t he also tell us to feed, clothe, and house the needy?

Had that pastor let "love your neighbors" become a "forgotten commandment?"

Jesus taught "man shall not live by bread alone" (Matt. 4:4, KJV). Yet feeding the hungry was a vital part of early Christian ministry.


"Our people must learn to help all who need their assistance, that their lives will be fruitful" (Titus 3:14).

"Sell what you have and give to those in need. This will fatten your purses in heaven! . . Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be" (Luke 12:33-34).

"Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can." – John Wesley.

More Scriptures: Ps. 112:1; 112:4-5; 112:9, Eccl. 11:1-2; Ezek. 18:5; 18:7-17; Matt. 19:21; Mark 3:4-5; Luke 12:22-34; 2 Cor. 8;1-15; 2 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; Heb. 13:16; James 2:8-9; 2:14-17, 1 John 3:17-19. .


Does the Bible mean "love and help our neighbors" literally?

I’ve heard ministers preach that Jesus was speaking spiritually, not literally, when he said "as you have done it to these my brothers, you have done it to me."

Yes, some Scriptures are meant to be taken spiritually. For instance:

"Say there! Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine and milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that doesn’t give you strength? Why pay for groceries that do you no good? Listen and I’ll tell you where to get good food that fattens up the soul!" (Isa. 55:1-2.)

But I see no hint that that’s true of the Bible’s teachings about loving and helping each other.

And the same preachers who "spiritualized" verses about helping the needy criticized others for "spiritualizing" descriptions of miracles. Was that consistent?

Since my wife claims I’m an intellectual, you might expect me to agree that Bible stories of miracles are "spiritualized."

But I can’t. I’ve seen friends healed of cancer; breast lumps, humped backs and spinal curvature. A lady with an incurable case of hepatitis C asked for prayer at our church. Her next blood test showed no trace of it!

A head injury caused half of a good friend’s brain to atrophy. Inoperable gangrene set in, almost touching the medulla. He was sent home to die. A year later he walked back into the same doctor’s office, completely normal, after a healing that began in a church song service!

Friends in Gainesville, Georgia showed us "before" and "after" pictures of one of their foster babies who’d been born blind, with no optic nerves, and with only half of his brain. In the first snap, his face was blank, mask-like. The second captured him radiantly normal – a genuine Kodak moment! He’d been fully healed after consistent prayer at their small country church. Tests by his Atlanta doctors confirmed it.


Can healings be humorous? One of my Orlando co-workers told me he’d suffered severe lung disease when younger. He’d also been a convinced atheist. Then his Christian girlfriend "dragged" him to her church.

The pastor’s sermon mentioned healing. ‘Don’s’ girl looked at him and raised her eyebrows. He scoffed – but too strongly! She elbowed him sharply in the ribs and exclaimed loudly "For heaven’s sakes, Don, get up there!"

Don didn’t believe in God, so he couldn’t accept divine healing. But now several thousand pairs of eyes were locked directly on him. The minister asked "Young man, are you ready to receive your healing?" Wondering how to get out of this, he finally stammered "I guess so."

Just that suddenly, Don’s lungs felt like new!

But his pride wouldn’t admit God might have healed him! He decided to make himself sick to prove it hadn’t happened. He got on his motorcycle, unzipped his jacket to let the chilly winter air hit his chest full force, opened the throttle, and sped 1,700 miles to Washington, DC and back.

It didn’t work! His lungs stayed well! Then he accepted God. When I knew him he was a radiant Christian.


Has everyone I’ve known been healed? No. I wish they had. Yet I’ve seen (and personally experienced) more than enough miracles to make me take the Bible’s accounts seriously.

In the same way, if I’d never seen first-hand the importance of ministering to material needs, perhaps I, too, could "spiritualize" those passages. But my family spent six years living in a tent trailer, homeless, despite working for five of those years. Our personal experiences then, and since, emphatically tell me that Scripture means those passages literally.

Caring more about others than ourselves (as in Luke 12:32-34) may not follow the laws of logic, but it does obey the laws of love. Those laws say, "I trust God to provide for me because he loves me. And I will help my "neighbors" who are in need because I love them." That equation is in divine, not human, balance.


Should we love God (and our neighbors) wholeheartedly? Or moderately?

Why did Jesus tell us to love God "with all your heart and soul and strength and mind?" Isn’t it better to love moderately?

Can I ask you this? Have you ever watched your favorite sports team play "moderately" hard? Were you proud of them? Did they win? Perennial powerhouse UCLA made that mistake against tiny Wyoming in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl football game. In sharp contrast, Wyoming played wholeheartedly, "fought every inch," and won!

No man is more famed for producing champions than legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. When asked his formula for success, Lombardi once replied, "You’ve got to love each other ... Each player has to ... play from the soles of his feet right up to his head ... If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second." ("Iacocca, an Autobiography;" Bantam Books, 1984, pages 60-61.)

Could Jesus have urged us to love God "with all our heart and soul and strength and mind," and our neighbors as ourselves, because he wanted us to become champions?


How can we sum up "loving our neighbors?"

  • Loving our neighbors means "doing."
  • Loving our neighbors means helping people everywhere in practical ways.
  • Loving our neighbors means practising courtesy, forgiveness, mercy, and giving.
  • Loving our neighbors means ministering to both spiritual and material needs.
  • Loving our neighbors begins in our families, then reaches out to touch our community, state, nation, and world.
  • Loving our neighbors means ministering to others in the same ways we’d minister to Jesus.



"I have found that if you love life, life will love you back." – Arthur Rubenstein, quoting Cajun folk saying.






















































































































































































































































































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