By Elizabeth Prata
We hear the term ‘love they neighbor’ a lot. We hear it so frequently that it’s almost a motto or a mantra, bandied about. But it’s a Bible verse, which means it’s spoken from the mouth of God. ‘Love thy neighbor’ is also not the whole verse. The verse is in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The verse is known as The Greatest Commandment. The first part of the verse is to love God with all your mind, heart, and strength. The second part is to love your neighbor. Here it is in full-
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18). Emphasis added.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40). Emphasis added.
We are commended to love thy neighbor AS THYSELF. There are two parts to this concept I am addressing in this essay.
1. What does it mean to love someone as myself?
Barnes’ Notes explains
To this he added another – the duty of loving our neighbor, Leviticus 19:18. This Christ declared to be the second great commandment of the law, Matthew 22:39.
This commandment means, evidently:
1. that we should not injure our neighbor in his person, property, or character.
2. that we should not be selfish, but should seek to do him good.
3. that in a case of debt, difference, or debate, we should do what is right, regarding his interest as much as our own.
4. that we should treat his character, property, etc., as we do our own, according to what is right.
5. that, in order to benefit him, we should practice self-denial, or do as we would wish him to do to us, Matthew 7:12.
2. Secondly, what is love? Defined according to Strong’s from the Greek word Agapeo, it is,
preferring to “live through Christ” (1 Jn 4:9, 10), i.e. embracing God’s will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power. agapáō (“to love”) means actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him (by His power and direction).
Sadly, I have seen this verse used as a twisted cover by an increasingly perverse culture to mean that we should love homosexuality. Of course we love the person, they are a neighbor. But the twist the culture puts onto this verse is that we should also love their sin, because, they say, “it is who they are”, as if homosexuality is a biological part of a person’s identity and nothing can be done to alter it. “Loving your neighbor” has become code for accepting all behavior, including, in this culture & time, the sin of homosexuality.
The other verse I often see twisted in this way, as a cover to accept homosexuality, is 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love being kind does not mean we avoid telling people the Gospel, which includes condemnation for sin. Yes, it’s awkward to tell somone they are a sinner (as we all are, and someone had told us). Conversations like that often spark anger, because the pride from which all sin stems rears up in rage. It feels unloving at the time. But this culture insists that if we share the condemnation of God for sins, including (and especially) the sin of homosexuality, we are not being kind and we’re therefore unloving.
Loving our neighbor means sharing the Good News of the Gospel. We are all sinners, and we need a savior. The savior is Jesus. He came down from heaven, lived a perfectly holy life, and sacrificed Himself on the cross so that His blood would cover the sins of the people God had elected to salvation before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). If we repent, Jesus forgives us and he becomes the door through which we enter heaven. His righteousness is given to us and that is how God sees us forevermore, righteous in His Son.
Gill’s Exposition says of the loving one’s neighbor verse,
This law supposes, that men should love themselves, or otherwise they cannot love their neighbour; not in a sinful way by indulging themselves in carnal lusts and pleasures; some are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; but in a natural way, so as to be careful of their bodies, families, and estates; and in a spiritual way, so as to be concerned for their souls, and the everlasting happiness of them: [emphasis added]
and in like manner should men love their neighbours, in things temporal do them all the good they can, and do no injury to their persons or property; and in things spiritual pray for them, instruct them, and advise as they would their own souls, or their nearest and dearest relations. And this is to be extended to every man;
The world calls it hate but it’s love. See how condemnation and compassion are simply two sides of the same coin:
How should you respond to the success of the gay agenda? Should you accept the recent trend toward tolerance? Or should you side with those who exclude homosexuals with hostility and disdain?
In reality, the Bible calls for a balance between what some people think are two opposing reactions—condemnation and compassion. Really, the two together are essential elements of biblical love, and that’s something the homosexual sinner desperately needs.
We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, through Jesus and embracing God’s will. It is not God’s will to accept homosexuality as a loving part of a person. It’s a sin. It is loving to share the news that one can be forgiven of this sin and released from bondage to satan through it. It’s the same with any besetting or occasional sin one commits. We can be forgiven if we repent. Loving a person but leaving them in their sin is only half the story- and it’s not love, it’s hate.