“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” Mark 12:28-31 ESV
Love your neighbor…
In order to love your neighbor, we must love God and in order to love God we must receive His love. Without Jesus we cannot love our neighbor, but what does that mean?
How can we love beyond cultural barriers?
In today's culture we’re quick to judge and make assumptions. We base it off social media posts, political stances, or different cultures that can miss the bigger picture. We’re missing the person God created because of what they share on social media or because they’re not “this” or don’t “think” like you or don’t embrace what you do.
How quick we are even to make assumptions and judgments of culture within the church? Jesus says to love our neighbor as ourselves, but when it comes to different upbringing or things that are just different, how do you approach it? How are you approaching the person in church that while you both believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Jesus is the only way to salvation, you know they are more reserved and quiet. Or to the family in Christ who are bold and vocal of what God is doing in their life but you question their motives or how they interact with the Holy Spirit?
What does it mean to love your neighbor beyond race? Beyond culture? Beyond church dividers? And how can we do that biblically without sacrificing the standards God has called us to uphold in His word to live out every single day?
Jesus is our perfect example of how to love our neighbor despite cultural differences because His heart is for all to know the truth that sets people free.
In John 4, Jesus had already started His mission and before He would go to the next city, He would have to go through Samaria.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Culturally, Jesus, a Jew, should not be associated with a Samaritan. Jesus, a man, should not be associating Himself with a woman.
Jesus knew she was a Samaritan woman.
Jesus knew the life she lived and why she was alone.
Jesus still pursued this woman even though culturally he shouldn’t.
This woman knew who she was and what she did. She placed her identity in what others thought of her based on her actions. That is why she was alone at the well. Rejected, ashamed, and alone.
However, Jesus' mission was about ALL receiving living water. The fact that Jesus was going to drink from a vessel given from a woman would make Him unclean. During this time based on A Rabbinic Law A.D. 66 Jesus would become ceremonial unclean because this Samaritan woman was “unclean.” (John 4:9 Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord, John. F, Roy, B Dallas; theological seminary)
Jesus' love for the Father and the Fathers love for His creation goes beyond what’s one’s upbringing or sin.
And in that moment Jesus sacrifices His physical needs for a drink of water to meet her spiritual needs that she needs the Savior.
Jesus continues to reveal the woman’s history but He doesn’t shame her. He reveals that He knows not only who she is but what she has done so He can reveal WHO HE IS and that HE IS the one who they have waited for. The Messiah, the one who will save them ALL.
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” John 4:21-24
He chooses a Samaritan woman who has sinned to be the one to go back to the people who the Jews would not associate to declare the Messiah has come.
That it no longer would be based on regions or lineages but those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they awaited for. That the truth would expose the ones who really believed in Christ and those who did not.
“The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”” John 4:25-26
The best way I can imagine (I’m a visual learner) is the scene from The Chosen when they create this moment in scripture when she realizes who Jesus is. Yes, it’s a cinematic version, but hear me out. We don’t get to see the emotions in scripture, but when that woman found out who Jesus was and she said she would tell everyone what he told her, her life was never the same.
Now think of the Gentiles; the very people who were seen as unholy and the Jews wanted nothing to do with them would now be sons and daughters of the King. They would no longer be separated by a bloodline or by the Law of Moses but would be adopted by the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross.
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13 NKJV
So how do we love our neighbor amidst culture, race, religion, the married, the LGBTQ+ community, divorced, the addict, the stealer, the liar, without wavering truth?
We share the truth in love.
How gracious God is that He gives us His word - His Truth - to show us that despite where someone comes from or what culture they are from, we all need Jesus. No matter how DIFFERENT they may seem. WE ALL NEED JESUS.
We don’t waver on the truth even if there are consequences or backlash, but we also don’t withhold love because of what we see.
God will give us the opportunity to share the Gospel.
Jesus started by simply asking for a drink of water.
Take the steps to go beyond what’s uncomfortable and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
We can love and share truth and we can accept someone, but we don’t have to affirm if it is not biblical truth. But we have to take the first step.
We have to see people how Christ sees them. Worthy of the cost.
And to our brothers and sisters in Christ: Let us also remember that we are ONE in Christ, even if one church does a Sunday morning different from how God has called you to minister on a Sunday morning, remember the call: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people.
Have the conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ in different denominations and let’s not be quick to make the assumptions. We are United by the one true God and the truth that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.
We are here on this earth to represent the truth, the love, and unity of Christ and the world is watching. Let’s live out John 13:34-35 of the commandant Jesus gave His disciples to love one another as He has loved us.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV
~ Sarah Moon