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Loving My Neighbor

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

In this short Bible Study series we are looking at what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The lessons are running monthly through July 2014 and will focus on “Looking Inward,” (relating to and loving God), and “Looking Outward,” (relating to and loving our neighbor). In this series, the entire lesson each month is presented here on the front page. We hope you will join us in applying knowledge of God’s character to deeper levels of life. Previous lessons from 2014 remain available under the Table of Contents and Archive page.

©2013 Kay Smith and Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: ruthywood@gmail.com.

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Looking Outward

By Ruth Wood

Love is a word we loooove overusing. We love our children, we love a challenge, and we love chocolate. However, all of us long for what the deepest meaning of the word implies—unconditional acceptance, unconditional affection, and devoted commitment. At its essence, this kind of love possesses a noble, sterling quality about it that willingly endures all for the sake of the beloved.

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Diving In

We want to deepen our ability to love God and others. In these scriptures below, love is the main theme in some; in others it’s simply a little phrase easily overlooked. To read the familiar in a new way, highlight each use of the word love or a phrase in which it occurs. Mark in ways that feel meaningful to you:

1. Collection of “love nuggets”

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13b

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. I Corinthians 13:8

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. I Corinthians 14:1

Do everything in love. I Corinthians 16:14

As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. II John 6b

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. I John 4:7

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. I John 4:16

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. II Timothy 2:22

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. I Timothy 1:5

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. I Peter 1:22

2. What are some key phrases that stood out to you from this exercise? A couple of my favorites are: walk in the way of love and love never fails. What are yours?

3. Look at the following verses. What do they indicate is the most central theme of our faith?

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13b

4. Look at the following scripture and notice how all the characteristics build up to love:

“For this very reason,

make every effort to add to your faith goodness;

and to goodness, knowledge;

and to knowledge, self-control;

and to self-control, perseverance;

and to perseverance, godliness;

and to godliness, mutual affection;

and to mutual affection, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Which of the above characteristics would you like to strengthen so that you are able to love others more effectively?

5. Transformation

Paul, a die-hard Pharisee who zealously persecuted Christians, came from the most self-righteous, religious background of his day. His life had been steeped in the law and legalism. Consider the irony and marvel of such a man penning this phrase: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6b).

Paul was radically transformed from a man imprisoned by the law to a man set free by love. His writings are sprinkled throughout with the word love or references to actions that express love. In fact, this scholar, this brilliant legal mind waxed downright poetic when he recorded one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, I Corinthians 13. Paul really “got it” when it came to living by the Spirit of love. Do we? I sometimes find myself struggling to get rid of old beliefs that demand performance, that attempt to tie me back to the law, and maybe you do, too.

In what ways do you still adhere to “the law” or man-made rules even though you are following Christ? What rules or expectations for yourself do you follow in your need to perform or please? Is there an area in your life where you secretly wonder if you’d need to earn God’s approval after all, even though you know better?

6. Here’s a great topic for discussion. What does it mean that “love never fails”? For a clue see I John 4:16.

7. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

What difference does it make to know we are “dearly loved children” when we relate to others? (Recall also the previous lesson about Psalm 139 on the topic of being known by God.)

How am I to walk “in the way of love” like Christ?

8. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18).

Fear and love are incompatible. Why is this so? Whose “perfect love” is referred to here? Are we able to achieve perfect love while we’re on earth?

9. Reread the last three verses in your highlighted list: II Timothy 2:22, I Timothy 1:5, I Peter 1:22. How are purity, love, and our relationships connected?

10. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22a). Let’s look at how each fruit is an expression of love. The first two have been filled in as a sample of the thought process involved (a dictionary is helpful here). Continue with the others, prayerfully examining your heart.

Joy — delight, exuberance, hope, affection . . . How might joy be a way of loving others? Who needs joyful loving in my life?

Peace— is an absence of strife; it implies contentment and trust. How does my peace minister to others? Around whom is the loving Spirit of peace most needed in my life?

Patience —

Kindness—

Goodness —

Faithfulness —

Gentleness —

Self-control —

11. Identify the specific expression of love that gives you the most trouble: joyful love, patient love, faithful love, gentle love, self-controlled love, unfailing love, pure love, or fearless love.

Summary Reflection:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31)

In light of our scripture theme, prayerfully review the last three lessons. Then record the highlights of what you learned about loving and relating to God, yourself, and others. What beliefs have changed? What behaviors have changed or might you plan to change?

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