Honor your Neighbor as Yourself

Love is fascinating. It evokes immediate understanding, but is at the same time extremely ambiguous and complex. Love is mentioned a few times in the Bible (understatement much?). Almost everybody has heard the epic and often quoted 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And then there are the multiple instances in the Bible of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the goal, the ideal, the standard.

With all my heart I AGREE with these verses, and I KNOW that I should BE patient, and BE kind, and NOT envy, or keep a record of wrongs. But sometimes I am NOT patient or kind. Sometimes I DO envy and keep a record of wrongs. More often than I want to admit, I DON’T love my neighbor. And sometimes I don’t love MYSELF.

Because LOVE, as much as it is an ACTION, is also a FEELING. I LOVE many things about my husband. I love that he is LOYAL and HONEST. I love that I can TRUST him, and that he always makes me feel beautiful. I love when he laughs REALLY LOUD at something, because what I hear is JOY.

But there are other times, when things aren’t going so well, that I really DON’T HAVE THAT LOVING FEELING.

Dr. Laura says that “love is a verb.” Sometimes you don’t FEEL it, but if you perform loving ACTIONS, then the “feeling” will be a by-product. I get this at a certain level, but it definitely relies on the PERFORMER of that action, to stay on task, to LOVE despite the actions or behaviors or responses of the one on whom you are PERFORMING those loving acts. It is essentially being “Christ-like.” When I act Christ-like, I AM patient and kind. I do NOT keep a record of wrongs, I do my part, love on. But because I am human, it’s difficult to continue Christ-like behavior for long without recompense, reward, return on my investment.

So, this THING called LOVE … I can FEEL it so strongly sometimes, and then other times not so much. I can ACT loving, even when I don’t FEEL love, because that is what Jesus and Dr. Laura say to do. But in the end, since we are NOT perfect and not meant to be, our FEELINGS often prevail. And when we don’t FEEL, we don’t DO.

So during a recent sermon, this paradigm shift thing happened.

It was a simple word, really. Honor.

Honor. Love through honor.

I can love a lot of things about my husband, everything really, but if I don’t HONOR him, then when I don’t FEEL LOVE, I will not EXPRESS love. I will not ACT loving. (Guilty. Have done that). Beyond MY feelings though, and more important, is the RECIPIENT. Thy neighbor. Thy spouse. Do they KNOW I love them? Can they see or feel it by the way I act?

Love IS a verb, and it is a REALLY COOL verb, but it is ambiguous. I would add that it is GLORIOUS in its ambiguity, but that quality also makes it difficult to KNOW when you have been LOVED. I KNOW when I have tripped over a curb. I KNOW when I have been tickled, or hugged, or complimented, but a lot of times, I don't KNOW when I have been “loved.” Well, you might reply that the reason I don’t feel or notice “being loved” is because it’s a combination, or culmination of several different actions, like when my husband scrapes the icy windows on the car before I need to drive to work, or turns on my side of the electric blanket before bed.

That's part of it, but I also believe that often, the DEMONSTRATION or ACTION of LOVE is in the HEART (or emotions) of the BEHOLDER. It is possible, even LIKELY, that I SHOW love in the way that I WANT TO BE LOVED. Hence the multitude of “Love Languages” and “Temperaments” psychology and dialogue that reminds us that not everybody gives or receives love in the same way.

This is where HONOR hits the big-old-potentially-ambiguous-LOVE-nail on the head. Honor … J.O. said, “is when something is honorable to you, I make it honorable to me.” Well, that’s like when I pretend to like things that my husband likes so he will see that I love him, right? Sort of, but not quite. Does PRETENDING to like something your spouse likes ELEVATE him? Does that HONOR him? There is a subtle but important distinction here that demonstrates the difference between love and honor.

2 Samuel 24:24 says “… I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

It is not a sacrifice for me to “pretend” to like something that my husband likes. There is no cost to me, and this does not honor him. “When you honor someone, you reach into their life and it elevates that person.” (J.O.).We’re getting a little closer I think. The difference, as described by J.O., is that when we “pretend” we are “faking it,” but when we sincerely reach into someone’s life to elevate them, we are “faithing it.” THAT is honor. “Faking it” is when I behave based on how *I* feel about what is important to you. “Faithing it” is when I behave based on how *YOU* feel about what is important to you. God wants us to “Faith it.” It really is just simply acting more Christ-like, but it removes much of the “but what about how *I* feel about it” speech that we play in our head. Dude, just HONOR him. HONOR her.

1 Samuel 18 says “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul … Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1 & 18:3).

That is such a beautiful illustration of honor. When you REACH into the life of someone, into what is IMPORTANT TO THEM, and accept it, cherish it, and MAKE IT IMPORTANT TO YOU, you honor them.

That FINALLY STARTS to penetrate my human brain. But why is it different to LOVE someone than to HONOR someone? Just like “faithing it” above, I think it’s because when I LOVE someone, it often depends on how I FEEL. But when I HONOR someone, it is about how I make THEM feel. The sacrifice, the COST, is that I must die to self, my “feelings,” my nature. Put those things aside, and rely on FAITH. Faith in God that my actions of HONOR will not only honor the recipient, but GOD.

Love manifested by honor demonstrates patience and kindness BECAUSE it is not self-seeking, and does NOT keep a record of wrongs. When you love your neighbor as yourself as Jonathan and David loved one another as their own souls, you elevate love way beyond self and selfish needs.

When I “love” you, or act lovingly towards you, you might “feel” love, but you might not. When I HONOR you, the result is that you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have been honored, and therefore LOVED, the way God intended.

I’m not even close to perfecting this concept yet, but I have caught myself a few times either doing or NOT doing something based on my FEELING of “LOVE” at the moment. When I redirect that motivation AWAY from my FEELING of love to my DUTY of HONOR, I am almost immediately corrected onto a much more Christ-like path. And the result IS LOVE. For EVERYONE.


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