November 12, 2020

What Counsel Do You Have for Someone Struggling to Love Their Neighbor?

Nathan W. Bingham & Burk Parsons
What Counsel Do You Have for Someone Struggling to Love Their Neighbor?

How can we genuinely love our neighbor if he is living in opposition to God and the biblical truths we hold dear? Today, Burk Parsons provides counsel for Christians struggling to express care and compassion for their enemies.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week I'm joined by Dr. Burk Parsons. He is the chief publishing officer here at Ligonier Ministries and also one of our teaching fellows. Dr. Parsons, what counsel would you give to Mike and others who are perhaps struggling to love their neighbor?

DR. BURK PARSONS: Well, I'm very grateful that Mike called and left his message. Because I think Mike represents many Christians throughout the world who are really asking the same question, struggling to understand how it is they can love their neighbor and love their neighbor as themselves when their neighbors hold positions and views and perspectives that are contrary to Scripture and really against God and against everything that we hold dear as Christians. So, I'm grateful that Mike had the boldness to call and ask such a question.

The first thing we need to understand is really, Who is our neighbor? We need to understand biblically that "neighbor" is applied differently. That in some sense, our neighbor is one who lives with us in our own household, or next to us literally as our next-door neighbor, or someone behind us or in front of us. But also in Scripture, we see how "neighbor" is used more broadly to speak of those that we come in contact with. Sometimes in Scripture, it's used to designate someone who is in need, someone that we're able to help who is in need. For those who want to narrowly define "neighbor" and say, "Well, really, I'm only called to love my neighbor"that is, those in the church or my own family"as myself," then they have to really wrestle with the whole matter of what Jesus said when He commanded us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). Because many times, our neighbors are our enemies, and we are commanded to love them.

Another thing that we need to understand is that when God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, that means that we can't just use words of love, that our love has to be action, that it has to be genuine, that it has to be lived out. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we have to care about their souls and care about their eternal destinies. So in the case of Mike, what he brings up about his neighbor who holds to these sinful, ungodly, and unbiblical views and perspectives on humanity, on God, on what God has commanded, and what God has forbidden, it's a very helpful example because Mike, in calling and speaking about his neighbors, is in fact expressing concern. He's expressing some form of care, even though he disagrees with his neighbors, even though he'd be willing to argue with them and debate with them. He'd be willing to speak the truth to them. He'd be willing to show them what they should believe and help them to understand what the Bible says and what God commands and forbids in Scripture. He does so because he cares. He cares about these neighbors that he has. He cares about those that he knows who hold to these views, because he wants them to know the truth, because it's only the truth that sets us free.

So while we struggle to sometimes like our neighbors, while we sometimes struggle to get along with our neighbors, while our neighbors can sometimes be irritating to us and annoying to us in numerous ways, we are called to do what might seem to be impossible. That is to love them. That love is not the same love that we have for our spouse or our children or our close friends. It's not the same sort of love that we even have for the body of Christ and our fellow believers. But it is a love that is willing to help and a love that is willing to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

If we care about our neighbor and if we care about those dying without Christ, dying and going to hell, if we truly do care about them and care about their souls, then what we can begin to do to help us love them is pray for them. That's the counsel I would give to Mike and to all Christians who struggle with this. Let's begin to pray for them. Let's even begin to pray for ourselves, that we would love them in a way that we ought to love them.