When “Love Your Neighbor” Becomes A Euphemism for “Do What I Think You Should”

There’s a church down the street from my Brother-In-Law’s house with an old fashioned letter board outside. It is a lovely church I’ve been inside of a few times. Once for a wedding. Once for a mom’s group.

Nowadays, the letter board reads, “Wear a Mask, Save a Life”. Other times it reads “Stay Home, Save A Life”. And then intermittently it reads, “Love Your Neighbor”.

It doesn’t take a genius to get the message they are actually saying: Gathering as a Church right now is not loving your neighbor.

And it probably won’t surprise you that this particular church has failed to gather since last spring.

This isn’t a post about calling out churches who succumb to fear. I truly think the people running this church believe they are loving others by living apart from community…but it is also so disheartening to watch a body of believers be cut off from each other. It is concerning to watch this church abandon its sacred call to gather.

I can’t change this church or its leadership. But I can love them, even though I believe they are sinfully placing the idol of fear and self-service above Christ’s commands. This is extremely hard for me.

I’m starting to see this phrase everywhere: Love Your Neighbor. It’s on t-shirts and canvas tote bags and mugs and stickers. I never could have imagined this beautiful and sacrificial command from Jesus being used to control, shame, and divide The Church.

What does it even mean to love your neighbor? What did Jesus mean when he said it?

In Matthew 22 the Pharisees and Sadducees attempt to trick Jesus by asking him, “Which is the greatest command in the law?”

Jesus, just a few chapters earlier during the Sermon on the Mount, says “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”

By responding to this “trick” question, Jesus is answering his own claims made earlier in the Matthew narrative. His mission is to fulfill the law by redeeming humanity, so now the question is asked…if he is on a mission to fulfill the Law, what is important and what isn’t?

Jesus sums up the entire Law by giving us The Great Commandment – “You shall love the Lord you 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: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love for God is the first and greatest commandment. For this reason, God’s holiness, his purposes and the standards revealed in his Word must never be compromised in our efforts to show love for people. In other words, love for God must come first, and nothing we do to desmonstrate love for others should compromise our devotion to God. If we love God completely, and love others unselfishly, then all of our attitudes and action will end up aligning with all of the commands, instructions, guidelines and standards of God’s Word.”

The Fire Bible Commentary

We cannot claim to love others, while forsaking the commands God has given us to gather, to live in community, to worship and sing together, to bear each others burdens.

These commands are not “secondary” to the life Jesus has called his Bride to, they are intricately woven together. Loving Christ well and loving The Church well is foundational to loving others well. You cannot love others while ignoring the commands of Christ. You cannot subjectivfy loving others apart from a Biblical framework and call it Christlike. That’s just called good, old-fashioned false teaching.

Obviously, there are many faucets to this conversation, but something I always said before I starting blogging is that I would never spend half of my time explaining and defending myself picking apart every angle in attempt NOT to offend someone. Honestly, I am sick to death of offense-culture and the “what about this” culture. This is a blog, not a novel. And I hope you hear my heart in this post. That’s what matters most anyway.

God is not wishy-washy about his expectations for his people…

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

…where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Matthew 18:20

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16

When my husband and I had CoVid back in November, we stayed home, just like we would have if we had the flu or strep, but we refused to make choices based out of fear before or after that. We took care of our bodies. We rested. And we recovered.

There is a distinct difference between staying home with an illness and staying home because you might get sick or because you are afraid someone else might get sick.

For over 2000 years, The Church has gathered to celebrate the day Death was defeated and our Redemption was bought. I cannot describe the unsettling that happened in my soul in 2020 when The Church did not gather to celebrate what is arguably the most important event in the history of mankind apart from the Birth of Christ.

Did you know that the command to sing is the most repeated command in all of scripture? And often it is described in a communal setting, in both the Old and New Testaments.

God gives us the ability to make wise choices. But when The Church decides to bow to fear over wisdom, when The Church shames and condemns Believers for following scripture, something is dreadfully wrong.

And for what it’s worth, why are Christians ignoring the study after study after study linking the severity and length of CoVid to Vit D deficiency? Or the study after study after study linking increases in deaths to disrupted testosterone levels? Or the study after study after study indicating that sufficient levels of zinc can lesson the affects of the severity of the illness?

It is almost as if God designed our bodies to function in a certain way and we are completely ignoring the emerging information. It is almost as if this disease is showing us exactly where our bodies are lacking most.

Nothing is certain. That doesn’t give us leave to disregard Biblical commands.

Our lives are not the most precious things we have! Our souls are. And when we sacrifice our souls for the sake of our lives, we end up losing both. We lose fellowship. We lose the ability to look into the eyes of the broken and walk with them through healing. We lose the ability to reach the lost. We lose the joy of worship. We lose the transformation that happens when we live vulnerably in community. Our leaders lose accountability. Orphans and widows have no where to go. Marriages break. Sin abounds. And despair overtakes hope and lives are lost to the darkness of depression like never before.

It is NOT time for The Church to sit back in our comfy seats at home and binge true crime shows while consuming record amounts of alcohol and waiting on Government officials to rescue us from our own health crisis’s. Because, let’s just be honest, that is happening far more than growing in spiritual depth is right now.

If your church isn’t gathering together, challenge your Pastor to obey scripture. Speak out boldly. Don’t just leave the church. This is a common practice among believers, and it is harming our churches. Your spiritual leaders need your input! They need you to walk out your faith boldly. And this is coming from the wife of a pastor…If your Pastor isn’t interested in what scripture has to say, then perhaps it is time to prayerfully consider a new church home. Speak in love, with love.

Our communities are our mission fields.

We cannot afford to step into the background for such a time as this.

Published by Alicia Dean

Truth seeker and story-teller.

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