At the end of last week we finished up with what Paul said in Galatians 5 verse 14, “Everything that we know about God’s Word and the Law concerning human relationships is summed up in a single sentence, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is an act of true freedom."
I really like the idea expressed there by Paul that loving your neighbor as yourself is an act of true freedom. I want to take a moment to talk about the word translated as "neighbor" there. In the original it is:
G4139 πλησίον plēsion play-see'-on Neuter of a derivative of πέλας pelas (near); (adverb) close by; as noun, a neighbor, that is, fellow (as man, countryman, Christian or friend): - near, neighbour.
It means near to you or close by. It's not necessarily how we use the word neighbor in modern English, but it's literally everybody around you where ever you find yourself.
We find similar language, but with a slightly different idea expressed in the law given to the Israelites in Leviticus. Chapter 19 verses 17-18 says, "Don't secretly hate one another. If you have something against someone, get it out into the open; otherwise you're an accomplice in their sin. Don't seek revenge or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but love one another as you love yourself."
I really want to take a minute to dissect that little bit because I've seen Scriptures like this used as an excuse to violently confront those who haven't put their faith in Christ about their sin. But that's not what this scripture is saying and I'm hard pressed to find any scriptures that would lead me to head out on the street with a microphone and broadcast accusations of sin on passerbys who really need the message from John 3:17 that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. He came because He loved us.
"Don't secretly hate one another..." that one another there is:
H251 אָח 'âch awkh A primitive word; a brother (used in the widest sense of literal relationship and metaphorical affinity or resemblance (like H1)): - another, brother (-ly), kindred, like, other. Compare also the proper names beginning with “Ah-” or “Ahi-”.
It's brother or kindred, in context it's telling the Israelites that this is specifically concerning other Israelites. The modern equivalent for Christians would be other Christians. "Christians, don't secretly hate other Christians, if you have something against someone, get it out into the open; otherwise you're an accomplice in their sin."
That word "someone" there is the Hebrew word neighbor, but not in a Greek sense like we read earlier, and certainly not like we use it today. This is talking about someone you're in companionship with, a comrade, or a kindred fellow. Today we would say fellow believer. So with that a modern equivalent applied to our Christian life of this verse in Leviticus 19 would read something like, "Christians, don't secretly hate other Christians, if you have something against a fellow believer, get it out into the open; otherwise you're an accomplice in their sin."
The way we as believers "get it out into the open" is found in Matthew 18 verses 15 through 17, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense." I want to take a second to say that this can be applied to sinning period. They don't have to offend you personally. Because we're all in his family of believers together, we have the right to approach each other and to help each other live the best Christian lives we can. Getting back to the scripture, it says, "If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector."
So it's an act of love between believers to not keep secret offense between you and to confront that sin in each other's lives. If you don't love your fellow believer enough to confront the imperfections in their lives that may be blocking the blessing and prosperity in their life then you don't truly love them. What about unbelievers though? I like how the amplified puts it in James 2:8, it says, "If, however, you are [really] fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, if you have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit]” you are doing well." That's that Greek word for neighbor that we talked about earlier meaning everyone around you. It doesn't talk here about confronting sin in their lives.
I'm not ignoring the fact that Jesus confronted sin a lot in the bible. In fact I'm very aware that Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and the other pillars of our faith did an excellent job of upholding Leviticus 19 that tells Israelites to confront the sin in other Israelites lives. They even did an excellent job of confronting sin in the lives of other believers. What you won't find in the scriptures, however, is any of them confronting sin in the lives of those who weren't Jewish or believers in Christ. Paul went as far to say in 1 Corinthians 5 verse 12 that he has no business judging the non-believers and continues in verse 13 to say that God alone sits in judgement of those who are outside the faith.
We're left with doing things for others benefit to show love. Think of ways to really bless unbelievers in a way that gets you nothing back. Let it open the door to their heart and the Holy Spirit can take over from there and handle the conviction of sin side of things. This doesn't just apply to the folks at work, or in the apartment complex or neighborhood you live in, or people at the store.
Lately I've been thinking about the people I see at intersections relying on the mercy of other people. You've seen them , standing there with cardboard signs in-between red lights going from car to car. I get it, I get that some of those may be scammers, but that issue is between them and God. As for me, we're going to be putting together some care packages for the homeless at The Ekklēsian House, some socks, water, snacks, and other things. They're simple to put together, and after a Google search, theirs lots of info online on what's best to put in them if that sounds like something you want to do. This is just one example.
I encourage you to really put some thought into what you can do to unselfishly love those around you everywhere that you are. Once you've picked something, once you've decided what you can do recruit some other Christians and motivate them into some acts of Love and Good Works. That's what we read in Hebrews 10 right? That we're supposed to be motivating each other to acts of Love and Good Works. So let's do that. Let's go out there and love on those people who need good news, who need the gospel, who need to know that Jesus came not to condemn them, but to love them.