It has become fashionable nowadays to use the term “love thy neighbor” as an advertising pitch for all sorts of socially oriented organizations, from conservation groups to social welfare organizations. It is supposedly the duty of all men to love one another, better their economic condition and their earthly environment, thus making it a “better” world.
Christ also sought to lead His people to a better world, a world not of this present evil world, and thus reiterated the Old Testament commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” So can the same words be used for the building of the Church and for the workings of the Devil.
Harsh judgment, you say? Harsh, yes, but necessarily true, for the love of a Christian must be uniquely parochial to insure the particular purity of the Church of God. Indeed, we must love only God or be forever compromised.
Who then, must a Christian love, that is, who is our neighbor? Webster states that a neighbor is a fellow man . . . a handy definition. Is it then our duty to love our fellow man? A good thumb-rule of judgment is to ask ourselves the question, Does God? By evidence of many passages of Scripture, God hates the sinner, and expects His servants to hate the reprobate also. As the Psalmist states: “Do I not hate them O Lord, that hate Thee?” Ps. 139:21. The love of a Christian is limited to those who love God as we do, for do we not love our neighbor as ourselves? Because we love God (For the second commandment is like unto the first) we love ourselves, and our neighbor with that same love. All love begins and ends with God, and cannot be separated from Him, nor can faith function outside of love (Gal. 5:6). Therefore is our love parochial in scope, while being simultaneously unlimited in depth.
As a result of the parochial nature of our love, we work primarily through the institution of the church, and for this end was the merciful office of the deacon ordained. This does not mean that we should limit our acts of love to the benevolent collection. It is our duty to provide physical and spiritually for one another in every way possible, for the love of one Christian for another knows no limit to its depth. As we all promise each other during the act of baptism, each child is the congregation’s to raise in the paths of holiness, for were we to limit our love and concern to our own families, the church would be barren and divided place indeed.
If, then, we do limit our love and concern to our fellow Christian in the name of God, what is our posture toward the non-Christian world around us?
Our duty to those around us is primarily spiritual. Through our words and deeds, and through the operation of the church, it is our responsibility to preach Christ crucified for His own. To a starving world we can do no more than preach Christ . . . and this is greater than any amount of free food could ever be. We cannot, we should not offer Christ in a loaf of bread. Bribery never saved one soul, never opened the path of salvation to one reprobate. We are placed here not to preach this life, but the life hereafter.
Does this mean that we let our fellow man starve, even though he has no desire to see God’s greatness? On the contrary it is our duty to act toward all men in an exemplary fashion, knowing that a loaf of bread to a starving Christian is as to Christ, while a similar loaf to a reprobate is as coals of fire unto damnation. We cannot always judge man by his outward appearance. Nevertheless, if there is no doubt of his reprobation and his excommunication before the face of God, we may offer him no succor, save upon his repentance.
This does not mean to imply that the Christian has a place in the do-good societies of this world. We are here to proclaim the glorious truths of Christ, and membership in any group organized around the betterment of this world is folly. There is a group established for the better world hereafter, founded upon the truths of Holy Writ. Are you an active member of this group, or do you spend time crying for relevance, for social action, for reform? There is an effective and vital tool of Christ on this earth: The Church. This is where you belong, child of the Covenant. Are you living in and through it? Don’t complain unless you are making it alive through Christ in you.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 2 April 1971