Why Should I Love my Non-Christian Neighbour? – TGC Africa

Let’s turn to 2 Peter 1 as we are returning to our series on Sunday mornings entitles “Christian, Grow Up!” And I always emphasise that I’m dealing with you as an individual – and not you collectively. And Hence the statement is in the singular: Christian, grow up.

What we’ve been doing thus far has been to look at those graces that are mentioned in verse 5 down to verse 7 of 2 Peter 1, in order for us to see whether we are having these graces increasing in our individual lives. But let’s begin reading again from verse 3 as we make our way all the way to verse 7 where we are.

2 Peter 1:3-7: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

That’s where we are. As we are considering these graces. What you will remember is that we mentioned the fact that the way they are queued up, you are actually making your way to the top when you get to godliness. And then godliness pours downstream through brotherly kindness and love. And ultimately it is simply saying pours downhill through love. The only difference there that is being made is that the first is within the family of God, and so it is brotherly affection. But it does not stop there. When there is genuine godliness, that love pours out beyond the confines of the Church and touches neighbours and friends everywhere, as the Lord provides opportunities.

Now two weeks ago we were looking at the same love and the statement being “add love to brotherly affection.” And we were at that point introducing what that love is all about. We began to look at how it is different from brotherly affection. We also went on to look at its primary character from 1 Corinthians 13, so that we stop thinking that it is simply giving out alms. It is much more than that. It is the very character of the person. It’s you oozing with love and rather than simply dishing out things that people need. And then thirdly and lastly, we looked at it’s source. And we saw that its primary source is the Holy Spirit working in our lives. He is the one who enables us to love in this particular way.

Going Beyond Love For My Christian Brothers

Well today, I want us to go one step further and consider the intellectual reasons that should compel us to resolve to add love to our brotherly affection. To go beyond loving my brothers and sisters in Christ.

What are the intellectual reasons that should compel us to do so?

Now, before we plunge into that, let me just make one statement that we ought to appreciate as a general statement. And it is this. That Christianity does not start with reasons. It doesn’t begin there. It begins with revelation. It is God revealing to us who He is. Revealing to us His ways, revealing to us His laws, revealing to us His method of salvation. It is a given faith. However, this is the point I want to make. That although Christianity begins with revelation, it is in itself very reasonable. Very reasonable. In other words, when you then begin to understand what God has revealed it is most satisfying to to your capacity to reason. Your logical capacity. And that’s one reason why you find that Christians, mature Christians, are individuals who have a growing capacity to reason, and also to show wisdom in life. It is because they have been enabled, as it were, to stand on the sun and appreciate the solar system of truth in perfect symmetry.

So it doesn’t begin with reason. As the Bible itself tells us, if the people of this world had at heart that wisdom, they would not have crucified the king of glory. They would not have done so! Because they were beginning with worldly wisdom. And in the end they thought that taking Jesus to the cross was an opportunity to get rid of an enemy. They did not know they were playing into God’s hands. It was according to plan.

However, you and I today, studying the cross and what took place at calvary. It is the most mentally satisfying truth when you realise that what God was doing there was substitution. The innocent for the guilty; the righteous for the unrighteous; the living taking the place of the dying that we might be able to live. And so, it is intellectually satisfying. Well we can apply it to love, as well.

3 Logical Reasons to Love My Non-Christian Neighbour

It is God who has commanded, as we shall see in a moment. It is revealed in scripture that we ought to add love to brotherly affection. But I want to give at least 3 reasons this morning as to why it is the most reasonable thing to do.

1. My God Has Commanded It

First of all, we are to love our non-Christian neighbours simply because the Lord God has commanded us to. That’s the first reasonable process we should be able to go through. My God has commanded it, therefore I ought to do it.

And we see this in the way in which the Lord Jesus Christ answered the Pharisees in Matthew 22:34-40. Just quickly turn with me there.

Love God, Love your Neighbour

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him….” Referring to Jesus, and asked him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? 37And he (Jesus) said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38This is the great and first commandment.” And then he doesn’t end there. Because the Lord Jesus Christ realises that that’s half the answer. The other half must be included. And so he says:And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

That’s then obedience to God is complete. It is when you love God, and when you love your neighbour. If all you do is love God then you are not completely obeying Him. It is both. And notice the way he summarises it in verse 40. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

This is Obedience to God

In other words, you can read your whole Bible if you want, and if you can imagine that these two commandments are like plates – one plate here, and another plate here – you will find that everything that the Bible ever commands you to do, can be put into one or two of those plates. There won’t be a single one that you will say “ahhh – it doesn’t quite fit into any of these two. Let me put it elsewhere.”

So, if I am loving God – or at least seeking to do so – and pursuing it with my mind, my heart, my soul and my strength, and I am loving my neighbour – and again, I am seeking, I am pursuing this… as I love myself, I am obeying God. I am obeying God.

love God, and love your neighbour. That’s it. The whole world of God’s truth settles there.

And so if you are to try and just summarise what the Christian life is, in the simplest, simplest, way, it is simply love God, and love your neighbour. That’s it. The whole world of God’s truth settles there.

One Word to Get By On in Zambia

Usually when friends are coming into Zambia and I am trying to introduce them to the keys to surviving, I often say to them – especially when they are trying to learn either Bemba or Nyanja. I say “there is a single word that you must know which can open almost every door.” If it’s Bemba I say to them it’s ’emukwayi’. It doesn’t matter what questions are being asked. Most likely, 90% you can get away by just answering emukwayi even if you don’t know what they are saying. They welcome you and they are warm. What do you say? “Emukwayi.” They say to you “can we bring you some juice?” “Emukwayi.” Even when you are about to leave and they are seeing you off and so on. And they say “bye!” Again you can just say “emukwayi.” They don’t know that you haven’t understood what they are saying! Just keep saying it: “Emukwayi, emukwayi, emukwayi.”

And if it’s Nyanja I normally just say “zikomo.” It will stand you in good stead. Just remember “zikomo.” They offer you some water to drink, what do you say? “Zikomo.” Are you trying to make your way through a crowd? The same thing: “zikomo, zikomo, zikomo.” and you get away with it! So just keep this one word with you, in your most difficult situations. And you may just find you get away with it.

Love is the Word

Well friends, when it comes the Christianity the one word you can hang onto and say with this one I hope I won’t be wrong… it’s the word love. The word love. That’s it. Love God, love your neighbour. There may be a few other mistakes we make along the way, love God, love your neighbour, and you can be sure that most likely the Lord will receive you to be with Him.

I mean think, for instance, concerning the second part of the 10 Commandments. Which says you shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false testimony against your neighbour, and you shall not covet. Again, those speak in terms of your love for other people. In other words, it’s because you love them that you want to avoid hurting them. Because you love them! And therefore, you won’t want to hurt them in physical or a spiritual way directly. You will not want to hurt their marriage or their family. You will not want to hurt them in terms of the property that they have. You will not want to hurt them in terms of their reputation… you will not want to hurt them!

So by you loving them you are already obeying each one of those commandments as they are written. But as most of you will also know, although the commandments are written in the negative, they are actually meant to me very positive. And what is it that makes you refuse to be content with simply that “I am not harming anybody. I haven’t harmed anybody.” What is it that makes you say “I must do more than that”? “I must protect my neighbour. I must protect my neighbour’s marriage and family. I must protect my neighbour’s property”, and so on. “I must protect my neighbour’s reputation.” What is it that is going to be like a compassion engine that’s driving you positively, maybe even sacrificially, in order to do good to your neighbour?

Love Enables You to Obey God’s Commands

Well the answer is obvious. It’s love. It’s love. Love enables you to obey God’s commands. It takes you beyond the immediate context of church members. You know that my neighbour is not simply that individual that I am sitting with in the pew. My neighbour, as we shall go on to see in a few minutes, is whoever it is that the Lord brings in my path that is needy.

My neighbour is not simply that individual that I am sitting with in the pew

But that’s the first reason. We love our non-Christian neighbours because the Lord God has commanded us to do so. And we deliberately want to obey God.

2. We Have a Lot in Common With our Neighbours.

The second reason we do so is because we have a lot in common with our neighbours. We love our non-Christian neighbours because we have a lot in common with them.

First of all, the most obvious one, is we are made in God’s image. We are all made in God’s image. And that’s what gives us sympathy with one another. We are of the same stock. Not only the same stock in terms of Adam, but also the same stock in terms of God himself. He has imbued us with His image. But we need to go through at least 3 major looks beyond that, which are historical in nature.

We Are Under a Common Condemnation

First of all it’s the fact that we are under a common condemnation. A common condemnation. When God said to Adam “you shall surely die.” When he said “thorns and thistles will break out upon you,” all that was not just for some stream of human beings and the rest of us are saved from it. Not at all! All of us as human beings are under that condemnation that was put upon Adam.

Because we are in this together, we seek to help others who are suffering with us.

We experience, for instance, disease and death. We do – all of us. We do. And therefore, because we are in this together, we seek to help others who are suffering with us. Especially those who are suffering worse than we are.

We Need Each Other

Think, for instance, of slaves being carried out of the midst of Africa. In chains. Being taken to the coasts and given a lick of soup along the way to drink. A little soup. And then the neighbour on that same chain as he tries to drink the soup, because he is unwell, shaking, the soup spills to the ground. And you are next to him. I know what you will do. You will share your soup. You won’t just say “hehe! Too bad. We hope you survive.” No. There is a sympathy that makes you feel – we are together in this. We need each other. And therefore the little that I have, let me share with him. Perhaps it might enable both of us to go the full journey.

That’s the way it is in life. You find the individuals who are together in prison – whether that’s because they caused the mischief and found themselves there – or because they are prisoners of war and consequently have been locked up. You find that they have a comradeship that they share together in the midst of that prison. They are suffering together and consequently they help one another.

We Have a Better Lot

Well friends, that’s true in this world. It’s a world of injustice. Where we are just one to the other. Individuals lose their employment, they get expelled from work, they are abused in different ways but the powerful ones and ultimately because you’ve been there, you feel for them and want to help out – to do something for them.

And ultimately, that’s the reason. We are not simply under a common condemnation. But it’s because in the midst of that common condemnation, we have a better lot. They are sick, we are well. They don’t have money for school fees, we’ve got money in the bank. They have been robbed and are traumatised, I have a field of peace and tranquility.

And therefore, being in a season where I am advantaged compared to them at that point, my heart goes out to them. And I see to do what I can to rescue them. To make their lot better.

Rescue and Sympathy

Now if you’ve ever watched any movie that’s depicting a shipwreck, a sinking ship, and individuals with smaller boats arrive to rescue people, one of the things you will almost inevitably see is that when a person gets rescued, and jumps into this boat, he turns round to hold the hand of the person who is behind them.

They don’t just get out of the boat and jump into the new one and go “phew – at least me – I’ve survived.” No! They were relating to people on that ship. And therefore, their hearts cry out in sympathy that they might help out to get as many of the other individuals out of that sinking ship, before it finally sinks.

It’s what life is. It is this sense that we’ve a lot in common with these who don’t at this point have the advantage I have. And consequently let me do what I can.

We Have the Same Potential in Life

Let me move that one step further. And it is the realisation that the individuals who are still in the worse situation than I am – listen to this – have the same potential in life that I have. The same potential. And therefore, we want to give them the chance to reach where we are! And that’s what you are doing when you are rescued and then you reach out again and want to bring the other person into the lifeboat. It is because you realise, “look, the person hasn’t died yet. And if he can jump into this place, he will have the same privileges, the same opportunities that I now already possess.” And consequently you are reaching backwards.

I was Once There!

And this is especially the case with helpless babies. Helpless children and helpless youths. Compared to those of us who are older. It moves you because you say “I was once there. I was once a little helpless baby that was in desperate need of an adult to look after and reach out. I was once a child who did not know my left from my right. And I could have easily been swept off my feet. I could have easily fallen into the hands of criminals and so on. I was once a teenager whose hormones were running riot! And consequently I would have fallen into anyone’s hands who promised me love. I was once there!”

Now that I am in my 50’s and 60’s and 70’s I am not going to turn a blind eye to those babies, those children, those youths, and simply say “well, at least I’ve got my marriage, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my grand-children, I’ve got my health, I’ve got my beautiful car, I’ve got my pension. Let’s just go on.” I won’t do that! I look back! And I want to do what I can for those orphaned children. They too may have the opportunity that I have had to reach where I have reached.

I want to love the youth that are along my streets. The youth that are in that college and university. I want to love them. I want to invite them home, I want to be an elder brother, I want to be a father to them. That they too might cross over the difficult teenage years. I want to give them a free book on sexuality – that they might be armed against the vultures that are there in their world today. They don’t have the money to pay for these books. I’m going to buy the books and give them

I will Not Be Negligent

Why? Because I was once there. And I know that many of my peers died along the way, because they lacked an adult to care for them. To love them! And to bring them to where I am. I will not be negligent. They have the same potential that I had. I want them to be where I have reached.

And by the way, that’s also partly what motivates us to evangelise sinners. Why? We were once there.

As we see them in the arms of prostitutes. As we see them staggering out of bars. As we see them up to mischief in the work place and destroying their lives, we remember. That we were once there.

But somebody cared sufficiently and reached out to us. We want to do the same. So that’s the second reason. We love our non-Christian neighbours because we have a lot in common. Our hearts reach out – cry out – as we see them behind us in need. And we say “that’s me, but for the grace of God.”

3. We are All Equally Important

But here’s the third. Equally important. We love our non-Christian neighbours because all men – good men and bad men – all men need this love. In other words, everyone needs this love.

When I was speaking about babies – and then I went into children – and then I spoke about youths and so on… I mean it’s all men that need this love.

So, this last point is seeking to answer the question “why should we love all men indiscriminately?” Why should we not keep our love only for fellow believers? Or only for those who have been well-cultured in terms of manners? Why can’t we just keep our love only for them?

Where Love Get’s Difficult

And brethren, let’s face it, we have no problem loving those who have loved us. We’ve got no problems. We are basically paying back a debt. Our greatest difficulty is loving someone who has harmed us. Someone who is a sworn enemy to us. Someone who wants our downfall in the workplace, in the school, in whatever else it might be – the whole community. That’s where we have a real problem.

Our greatest difficulty is loving someone who has harmed us.

The challenge is to love, and I am deliberately using phrases here that we don’t like, the Al-Qaedas, the Al-Shabaabs, the Boko Harams. That’s where the difficulty is. To say “let me pray for them. Let me do what I can that the Lord might open their eyes. That the Lord might save them, that the Lord might do good to them instead of retribution.” That’s where the difficulty is.

And Jesus dealt with this question in Luke 10:25. Let’s quickly go there. It’s a slightly lengthy passage, but I will make the point as we go along.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test.” The last story had a lawyer – this one also has a lawyer. Yah! We hope we will have lawyers in heaven – hey? But anyway let’s follow the story. “…Stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26He said to him,What is written in the Law? How do you read it?27And he answered, 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 neighbour as yourself. ” The guy’s god it straight. He’s hit all the points in the right places. “And he (that is Jesus) said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.

29But he,” (and that is where the problem comes in) “desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” In other words, it is not straight forward this commandment, you know, “love your neighbour as yourself.” How do you know who your neighbour is? Tricky!

Jesus says it’s not tricky. And the way he answers him is by a story.

The Story of the Good Samaritan

“Jesus replied, A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

Now, before we come to the Samaritan, let me explain how Jesus is building a story here. Between Jericho and Jerusalem you would have had the city in which priests and Levites would have lived. And you would have had Jerusalem where the temple was. And so here are individuals who are either rushing to work, or have knocked off and are tired.

So let’s not be too quick to judge them! Because by now that’s sounding like us every day. And consequently they see a situation and they sort of quickly rationalise and they say “well look. I am sure somebody else will come along and handle this…” and zoom! Off they go.

Two Halves to the Story

But what is worse is this. That they actually work in a place that is about loving God. And they fail to make the connection that loving God, the temple, is only one half of the story. The other half is loving this person who is in need. And it’s what they do for a living!

Loving God, the temple, is only one half of the story. The other half is loving this person who is in need.

But somehow in that moment there is a disconnect and they bypass a human being, made in the image of God, whom they are seeing, and they rush to go and prepare the place for worship for a God they don’t see. Off they go.

Thirdly, most likely, as we shall go on to see in the next part, the person is actually a Jew. It’s a fellow kinsman that they treat in this way. With hardly any sympathy.

Well guess who comes now? It is a Samaritan. Before we read this account, the Samaritan is like a, you know, a tribal cousin. It’s individuals that if there was an opportunity to give them a wish, they probably would have wished the Jews out of existence. Because there was always this competition between them. The Jews always claiming that they are the ones who had God’s word correctly, and that worship is to be on the temple, and so on. Whereas for them, the Samaritans, were like their cousins. They had another place that they had put up for their own worship and things to that effect. And this was always in conflict.

So Jesus, building his story, of all people! Brings in a Samaritan.

33 “But a Samaritan.” Now you can be sure that as he was speaking like that to the lawyer and people around, they would have felt very differently from the rest of us here. Because that thing that Samaritans do, is what happens usually in our traditions when maybe a Bemba has died, and it’s at the funeral. You know what the Nyanjas or Tambukas or whatever do? THey sort of put a lot of white stuff all over you and they are dancing on the grave and so on. That’s the kind of thing that they would have expected. That this Samaritan would come and look and say “aha! They’ve done you well.”

But look at what this Samaritan does:

33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him”, here is the word “he had compassion.” Sympathy! He was moved in the inner man.

34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35And the next day” so at least he has been there a day! “…He took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.

In other words, I am continuing my journey home to where I have come from. When I return just give me the bill and I will settle it.

Now at this point the lawyer is going “wow! Wow – this must be a rare Samaritan. Wow!” And then he now asks him

36 “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?37He said, The one who showed him mercy. And Jesus said to him,You go, and do likewise.

In other words, in God’s providence, he brings us – every so often – into contact with needy individuals. Sometimes it’s in a physical way – you meet them physically. Sometimes, it’s through news that comes through various forms – you get your text messages and WhatsApp and phone calls and so on. And messages are coming to you. And consequently you know that there is that needy individual. Those needy individuals.

When you do something for them, you are being a neighbour. You are being a neighbour. It’s got nothing to do with proximity or physical distance. It’s got nothing to do with human kinship – that they are from the same tribe – and so on. It’s the fact that God, in his providence, has brought you into contact with each other.

And then, as I said, remember. The last person to have helped this person was a Samaritan. But the Samaritan put aside the enmity between these two. Put it aside completely Because there was a person who was in need.

It’s not about my relationship with him. It is about the person’s need – and therefore, let me do something about it. One more passage and I must hurry on to close. Matthew 5. Still dealing with loving the outsider, loving the non-Christian, loving the bad non-Christian. The bad one! Matthew 5:43-48

Loving the Bad Non-Christian

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46For if you love those who love you…”

And what he means there is the little word ‘only.’ If you love only those that love you…

“…what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

There it is. We are to love all human beings indiscriminately. Whether they love us, or they hate us. The issue is they need our help. God has so ordered providence that we are in a better place. We are in a better place. And consequently we reach out to the.

And that’s the reason why – two weeks ago when we were looking at the nature of love from 1 Corinthians 13 – you remember it had words like this: love is patient. Love is not irritable, love is not resentful, love bears all things. Love endures all things. Now that’s clearly suggesting that you are loving people who rub you the wrong way! You haven’t shut the door and said that they should learn to have treated me better than they are currently treating me. No. True love bears all things; endures all things. True love never ends. It does not get snuffed out.

Does This Describe You?

Well friends, this is the love that Peter is referring to in 2 Peter 1:7 when he says “add love to brotherly affection.” Is this describing you? Is this describing you? Are you an individual who’s learnt to summarise his life, his daily life, by love?

That as I wake up this day may there be some deed of kindness done. May there be some acts of love flowing out of my heart. May some individuals who are behind me suddenly feel a helping hand from me reaching out to them and pulling them forward. Lord give me a heart like yours! A heart like yours. Make me the way in which you are.

That saviour who died in love, who got a hold of me, may through me get a hold of so many other individuals. Does that describe you?

Or is your life still being lived as that little self-centred warped little soul that only thinks about 3 individuals: me, myself and I. Period! Christian, grow up! That’s it. Get out of that period of being a little kid thumb-sucking and thinking the whole world revolves around me. Mummy! Daddy! Everyone should be running around because I’ve screamed for help!

Christian, Grow Up!

Grow up! And let your life count in this word. Let it count! Let it be reasonable. You should be able to say – what is life? And answer it with this one word. Not Emukwayi, not Zikomo, but love. That’s what life is. Love. And to be able to say God help me to love more, and more, and more. Through Christ. Amen.

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