Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When You Don't Want to Love Your Neighbor

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

If one feels, even out of "good motives," that one needs to do good works, whether as gratitude for the the gift of salvation, or out of fear, both are variations of salvation by works. It is Christ's Spirit of righteousness working in us supernaturally to do the impossible--doing what is good for selfless reasons--that is the genuine article. That solves the problem of the times when you consciously attempt to maintain a loving relation to God through prayer and bible study and working with Jesus, but still wind up doing things, whether accidentally, or intentionally, that are against his law. If salvation depends on your efforts, whatever the motive, love for God or out of fear, then some have a greater advantage since it's easier for some people to live a more upright life than it is for others.

If you have to repeatedly keep yourself from turning on the television to watch secular programming, out of boredom, during the Sabbath, you are living by works, and not by faith. On the other hand, if you naturally have no desire to turn on that TV or DVD player or secular radio station because it doesn't agree with you on the sabbath, then that is the genuine righteousness by faith in Christ, not in yourself and your effort to keep God's law, whatever the motive. The same goes for being faithful to your mate, or paying tithe, or loving your neighbor who hates you for no reason you can think of. If you have to grin and bear it as you make an attempt to "love your neighbor as yourself", you are not experiencing genuine righteousness by faith. And believe me, it shows. Your less-than-loving neighbor will see the phoniness of your efforts to love him in spite of his hatred for you.

If you are not genuinely able to love your neighbor, it's better to walk away and not interact with him as long as humanly possible, instead of smiling one of those phony, painful-to-watch smiles that do more harm than good.

No comments: