Some of you may be old enough to remember a song by the B-52s called “Love Shack”. On the original accompanying video several beautiful young people (and one older one) travel to a cabin hidden in the forest and move and groove to the band as it performs the song.
I’m not about to analyse or criticize the song or the video here (I like it), but to use it as an illustration.
Our neighbors, followers of a certain “prophet”, have a sign on their door which simply reads “LOVE”.
Heart-warming, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, I don’t know how loving they are, because I haven’t set eyes on them since the day I knocked on their door to welcome them to the neighborhood. They barely had time to say “thanks” before they lovingly closed the door in my face. They enter and exit their house by car via the automatic door on their garage, so that they never have the unpleasant duty of saying hello to anyone. Inside there may be love, but if there is, it stays inside.
The Love Shack of B-52s fame contains the love which is felt among people who like each other and have the same tastes. Our home or even our church may be a love shack of sorts, but it’s no good if that’s where the love stays. There’s a big, lost world out there that badly needs some love.
Jesus said that we must love our neighbors, and of course he didn’t just mean the people who live next door. It wasn’t an optional bit of advice but one of the greatest commandments (Matthew 19: 19).
But Jesus went much further than that. He said that it is not enough to only love those who love us, but that we are to love even our enemies (Matthew 5: 43-48).
We have to love our neighbors. It’s not always easy, but if we only love someone who is easy to love, we will end up with a world…well, rather like the one we’re in now.
And it’s not enough just to feel love or to think it, we have to DO it.
In our day we are led to believe that love is just a feeling, and that when the feeling stops, or when a person wrongs us, we have some kind of right to stop loving them. Because of the corruption in our human nature we tend to love only those who love us, who do nice things for us, who look good or who have lots of money or talent. This philosophy is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus.
This does not mean we have to love everyone’s lifestyle, any more than we are to be happy to allow enemies to remain enemies: sin is still sin. Jesus told people to repent and turn from their ways. This is not being judgmental, it’s loving people enough to tell them that their sin is destructive and an offense to a perfect God. We are to hate sin, but love the sinner.
John, who wrote a lot about Godly love, said:
“Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3: 14).
He also said:
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Now you don’t have to wonder why that couple you know who go to church every Sunday have no time for you: it’s because they don’t know God.
Do we know God? This is a serious question we should all be asking ourselves daily. One of the tests is whether we actively love people, including the ones we find strange, or who don’t meet our specifications, or even those who are our enemies.
Jesus said that a mark of the times before His return would be a lack of love between people, resulting from growing godlessness. He was not talking about feelings here:
“Because of the increase of wickedness the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Does that sound familiar to you? It does to me.
To love God is the most important commandment, but the commandment to love our neighbor is a close second (Matthew 22: 37).