Spend the week studying 1 Corinthians 13 and John 13:34-35 in addition to Matthew 22:34-40. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
FOCUS ON THE MAIN POINT | Loving your neighbor is loving others the way God loves you.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
When Jesus answered the Pharisee’s question about eternal life, he summed up the law in two basic—but foundational—commandments: 1) to love God with your whole self and 2) to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus presents these two commandments as a package deal. That is, you can’t have one without the other. Love for God and neighbor were inextricably connected.
Love is the common thread connecting these commandments. Love is the primary attribute of God, the mark of Jesus’ followers and the foundational ethic in the kingdom of God. Self-giving love between the members of the Trinity brought creation into being and will be the defining characteristic under Christ’s kingdom reign in eternity.
The deepest desire of the human heart is to be truly known and accepted for who we are. Our hearts long for love—to give it and receive it. And God created us for love—to love him and others as he does.
What is the most powerful depiction of love outside of the Bible in your opinion? Consider works in music, film and literature.
Discuss the statement, “The deepest desire of the human heart is to be truly known and accepted for who we are.” Is this true? Why or why not?
Select 3-5 questions to discuss as a group.
So what does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself? To answer this question, we need to define what love is and who our neighbor is. First, let’s explore how the Bible defines love.
Loving Your Neighbor Glorifies God
John defines God with three, simple words: God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God’s essential nature is love. Everything he does flows out of his perfect and everlasting love. The cross was the greatest demon- stration of love in history. The cross revealed God’s love for humanity by pouring out his wrath on his Son and judging him for our sin.
As his children, our love should reflect something the Father. In other words, to love your neighbor is to offer him or her a taste of what God is like. To love your neighbor is to seek his or her good. Giving others a taste of God’s love brings him glory.
How would you respond to someone who says, “If God is love, why does he send people to Hell? A loving God wouldn’t do that”?
What are some practical ways for you to give others a taste of what God is like?
Loving Your Neighbor is More Than a Feeling
The term ‘love’ is a lot like the concept of ‘beauty’—it is best defined when it is expressed. Love is something that needs to be seen. Love is more than a feeling, and goes deeper than any infatuation. Love takes the initiative; love compels you to do good for your neighbor. Love is a choice; love is determining to seek the benefit of your neighbor. Love is a lifestyle; love is your defining characteris- tic.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and 13, Paul shows us that love is more than a feeling:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. Love never fails. [...] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
How does God demonstrate the different verbs associated with love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? Cite any examples from Scripture.
Some say the opposite of love is ‘indifference’ instead of ‘hate.’ Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
Loving Your Neighbor is the Mark of a Disciple
The Mosaic Law was given with love for God and neighbor at its center. In fact, if you break down the Ten Commandments (Exod. 2:13-17), you’ll see that the first four commandments concern loving God, and the final six commandments concern loving your neighbor as yourself.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus told his disciples that love would be their hallmark. When the world looks at Christ’s Church, they should see love in action. If they don’t, they won’t see Jesus. They may see religion, but they won’t see God-glorifying, self-giving love.
Describe a church known by its active love and one known by its religion. What are the differences between the two churches?
What’s one change you can make in your life to put more love into action?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
Who is My Neighbor?
Now that we have defined love, let’s explore the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers this question for us in Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The parable is a beautiful illustra- tion of love in action.
Divide Luke 10:25-37 between group members and read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Pay attention to how the story answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?” After reading, split the group into pairs and retell the story in your own words.
What part of the parable had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Who is your neighbor according to Jesus’ parable? What does the parable tell us about how to love your neighbor?
Thank God for choosing to love you and give you new life through his Son. Ask for the desire to love your neighbor as the Father loves them. Think of someone that needs your love most now, and pray for God to give you ways to put your love into action with them.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Did God give you an opportunity to love your neighbor this week? If so, what happened? What did you learn from the experi- ence?
Memorize John 13:34-35 and reflect on what it means for God’s people to be known by their love.
“Love Your Neighbor” (Matt. 22:39-40)
Jesus cites the commands given in Leviticus 19:18 and 34 in v.40. Love makes us responsible to others and forms the basis for all Christian ethics. That is, love—as the greatest Christian virtue- should determine how we relate to others and live our lives. By hinging the entire Old Testament on two commandments, Jesus emphasizes the centrality of love as the primary motivation for obedi- ence. The principle of love does not change, but its applications will vary by situation. The important question to ask, when faced with a difficult situation is, “How can I respond in love to this person (or circumstance)?”
Love in Scripture
God’s love is the main theme throughout the Old and New Testament. A popular Hebrew term for ‘love’ in the Old Testament is דֶסֶח (hesed), which means “steadfast love, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty” (cf. Ps. 136). When hesed is used, it denotes God’s faithfulness to his covenant with his people, the Israelites. God set his affection on Israel, not because they were more deserving than other nations, but because God chose to love them (Deut. 7:7-8). In the New Testament, the term most associated with God’s ‘love’ is ἀγάπη (agape), which “carries the sense of affectionate regard or benevolence towards someone.” Agape may also refer to love as an idea or concept (John 15:13; Rom. 13:10) or love between people (2 Cor. 2:4; 8:7).
Love in Action
Jesus set the standard for love when he told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Love is active (not passive) and sacrificial (not selfish). Paul echoes Jesus’ sentiment in 1 Cor. 13:1-8 with an exposition on love. Paul personified love for his readers and provided his readers with characteristics that were identifiable and relatable. 15 verbs in vv.4-7 have ‘love’ as the subject (7 refer to what love does and 8 refer to what love does not do).
The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
As is the case in Matthew 22:34-40, a lawyer also puts Jesus to the test in this passage. The question, “Who is my neighbor?” betrayed the lawyer’s misunderstanding of Leviticus 19:18 and its application. The point of Jesus’ parable is to shift the lawyer’s question from “Who is my neighbor?” to “What does a good neighbor do for others?” Making the Samaritan the hero of the parable would have been scandalous to the lawyer, because Samaritans did not associate with Jews (John 4:9). The Samaritan put love into action by showing mercy and compassion.