Love of neighbor has biblical context
August 26, 2020
Dad delights the family by bringing home a new board game. Excitement grows as it’s unwrapped.
There’s a stack of special cards, some dice, and a strangely decorated spinner wheel. The board is unfolded and Dad puts pieces on some of the spaces.
“But, Dad,” says one observant child, “We don’t know how to play this game.”
Dad waves a hand. “Don’t worry about that. We’re just going to have fun and play fair.”
“Well ... are you going to tell us the rules?”
He says, dismissively, “Who needs rules? Let’s just play fair.”
Mom and the kids share baffled glances with each other. It takes about one minute for the game to devolve into chaos. A child is crying. Dad is angry. Mom’s unspoken suspicions about Dad’s mental health are being confirmed in real time.
Feel bad for Dad. He just wanted the family to play fair and have a good time. But don’t feel too bad for him: That was really dumb.
It should be obvious that fair and unfair would need to be defined by the rules of the game. If you follow the rules, then by definition you played fairly. Unfair play would be that which breaks the rules.
I bring you this parable of the Game Night Gone Astray to then draw your minds to the current fad, in which many of our leaders and politicians are proposing that we all need to “love our neighbors.” (Is it mere coincidence that love for neighbor equals obeying their edicts?) Telling a bunch of people who have turned their ears away from hearing the commandments of God that they should love their neighbors is the equivalent of the hapless Dad above saying, “Let’s just play fair.”
That is, we need the rules to know what that looks like. Jesus didn’t command us to love our neighbors in a vacuum. You and I don’t decide for ourselves what love of neighbor looks like. Majority vote doesn’t decide. The loudest shouters don’t decide, either.
Believing neighbor, love has been defined for you by God, and it’s spelled out in some detail in the Bible. Take a look, for instance, at Romans 13:8-10. By God’s definition of love, if you sleep with your neighbor’s wife; steal from him; tell lies about him; covet his goods; or murder him, you don’t get to say you were loving him. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is actually a summary of all the other moral commands. You can’t break the commandments and call it love — not with any honesty, anyway.
I’m old enough to remember when the catch phrase among all our petty tyrants was, “Let’s do it for the children.” Any piece of legislation that came down the pike and picked your pocket was justified with an appeal to the children. I mean, what kind of moral monster would oppose a law that was for the children, right?
Now, we have “love your neighbor,” and so we should. Let’s do that like Jesus did, though, with self-sacrificial giving and obedience to the Father’s rules.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: