Love your neighbor.

I’ve been putting this off for awhile.

There is one thing that irritates be beyond belief.

It’s the phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

There’s two reasons it irritates me. The first reason is pretty simple. This isn’t in the Bible. It’s quoted as scripture but it’s not. The thoughts behind it are not based in scripture either but we will tackle that a little later on.

Here’s the second reason. Even if this is good principal for life, we do a very good job hating the sin. We focus on it pretty well and we excel at it. Probably better than anything else the church does. We are terrible at loving the sinner.

This thought of love the sinner hate the sin is something we are incapable of doing. First of all we are sinners in a sinful world. It’s natural for us to hate. Love takes work and it is against our very sinful nature. We’re too lazy for things that take work. That’s in our sinful nature as well.

So we have found out this deadly phrase is not in Scripture. What then does the Scriptures say?

The best place to look for this is Luke 10:25.  A lawyer stood up and asked how he could inherit the Kingdom. Jesus asked him what does Scripture teach. Scriptures teach, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says if the lawyer does this he will live. This is where the Good Samaritan parable comes in because the lawyer is like any lawyer and wants definitions for words lest there be void for vagueness.

Jesus says the Samaritan is the neighbor because he’s the one who helped the man. The Samaritan. What does that mean in terms of today? The Samaritan in those days were considered half breeds. You could be a Eunuch from Ethiopia or a Roman guard and while you might not be liked, you were tolerated and you could walk on the same side of the street as a Jew. Samaritan’s were the Jew’s idea of the lowest in society. Half breeds were looked down upon and not given any of the blessings promised to the Jews.

Luke 9, a Samaritan city rejected Jesus and James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven. With their statement Jesus gave them the name Sons of Thunder. Jesus rebuked them for their behavior and their words of death.

Jesus was asked which is the great commandment in Matthew 22. He said the first commandment is to love the Lord your God and the Second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest of scriptures is dependent on these two. This is likely a different version of the story as it was a lawyer who asked the question.

The answer in both instances is a summary of the 10 Commandments. The first 2 of the 10 is about loving the Lord your God. 3-10 are all about loving your neighbor as yourself. You do these things because you love your neighbor. You don’t still because you love your neighbor as yourself. You don’t lie because you love your neighbor as yourself. None of this whatsoever has to do with hating the sin. None of the commandments tell us to hate the sin. They tell us to love.

Let us ask the question today, who is our neighbor?

Let’s take the good Samaritan story and change it around a little bit. Let’s say there is a Christian who has been beat up pretty bad. A Lutheran walks by and says, “Oh that’s a shame. I can’t help him unless I do a work,” and he walks by. A Baptist walks by and says, “That’s a shame,” does the sinners prayer with him and keeps walking.

A Mexican walks by, doesn’t speak the same language, sees the person needs attention or will not survive and takes the person to the nearest hospital.

Or in a same scenario, a Muslim Imam walks by and sees the person will not survive and takes them to the nearest hospital.

Or in a third scenario, a lesbian, a transgender and a bisexual are walking by. They notice the same life threatening injuries and take the person to the hospital.

In all three cases the person survives after receiving proper medical treatment. So I’ll ask again, who is my neighbor? If you change the Samaritan to a Mexican, Muslim or a member of the GLBT or somebody who is a gay Mexican who practices Islam, you have your neighbor.

Love a Samaritan as yourself. Love a Mexican as yourself. Love a Muslim as yourself. Love a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as yourself.

The end of the Sermon on the Mount, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and send the rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Our job is to love our neighbors. It is not the job of Christians to cure whatever it is we think ails our neighbors. If we cure anybody it must be ourselves as Philippians 2 states we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Before we judge others, remember this from Titus 3, such were we before the loving kindness of God appeared. He saves the same way, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ.

The only thing between us and hell is the loving kindness of God. The difference between a sinner and a saint is not what they do, but the work of Jesus.

There will be more “Samaritans” in heaven than we realize, because it’s not the “Samaritan’s” work.

Don’t judge. You don’t know what they’ve been through. The hills they’ve climbed. The oceans they’ve swam. You don’t know the battles they’ve fought and the struggles they’ve overcome. But you can if you love your neighbor. If you get to know a neighbor.

I challenge you. Find one person who makes you uncomfortable. One person you may not normally talk to. Get to know them and show them the loving kindness of God living through you.

Don’t think about hating the sin in them. Let that not be something which even crosses your mind. Love the sinner which is yourself and love your neighbor as yourself.


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