All in the Family
Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:3-8
Those who won’t care for their own relatives. ...have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers. 1 Timothy 5:8
“Hey, Travis,” Kyle said as the two walked home from school, “has it ever occurred to you that Jesus’ command to love your neighbor really means to love everybody not just the people who live next door?”
“Wow!” Travis exclaimed. “I guess that means I can’t go to the movie with you tonight.”
“I have to get to bed early and get my sleep,” Travis explained, “because I have six billion neighbors to love!”
Travis is still a few ounces short of that supersized soda.
Yes, Jesus wants you to love everybody, but you can’t literally love everybody. You don’t have enough time, energy, or resources to care for everyone everywhere. If you tried, your love would be spread so thin over so many that it wouldn’t mean much to anyone. That’s why the Bible gives what might be called “the principle of centralized loving.” We are to fulfill the command to love people by starting with those closest to us and working out to the whole world “whenever we have the opportunity” (Galatians 6:10).
The inner circle of your love responsibility is yourself. If you don’t take care to provide for your basic needs and protect yourself from damaging influences, you won’t be able to love others effectively.
Next to loving yourself, your most immediate love responsibility is to love your own family. Paul wrote on this point, “Those who won’t care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1 Timothy 5:8). Everyone needs assistance, encouragement, prayer, comfort, and counsel from others. You are obligated under God to fill these needs for family members. Loving your parents and siblings is your first priority in the category of loving your neighbor. Caring for extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., is a close second (see 1 Timothy 5:16).
If spending time helping your parents with chores or being with your brothers or sisters is the last item you put on your calendar --or the first to erase when you get too busy-- you might need to rethink God’s priorities for loving others. God intends your first love commitment to be to those closest to you, and that’s your family. If you aren’t practicing love there, you aren’t living like a Christian.
REFLECT: Are you overwhelmed by God’s command to love everyone? Then focus on how you are doing at loving the people closest to you.
PRAY: Lord, teach me to love the people nearest me.
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