Who is my neighbor? How do I love my neighbor?
What does this look like in today’s culture, with the current social agendas and rabid political climate?
Could loving my neighbor be an answer to a world that seems overwhelming and, quite frankly, a bit scary?
We just finished a sermon series on loving our neighbor. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious leaders passed by a wounded man, for reasons they felt were Godly (to touch a dead person could make you unclean). But these were not the heroes of the story. The hero we know, the “Good Samaritan”, who was an outcast himself took pity and gave his time, his energy, and his resources to help a fellow human being who was hurting, no matter the cost to himself.
Can I say, honestly, that this message isn’t easy to hear?
I don’t get to love people on my terms, through my lens of rightness and wrongness. That isn’t love. I need to – and want to – love them as God does. Unconditionally, at a cost, with nothing to gain for myself.
I have a 1-year-old and a 2 ½-year-old, so my attendance, engagement, and involvement in many things is a bit up-ended as even a slight fever and runny nose can take a week completely off course. But, this “mom thing” is currently my very small, very important life.
I occasionally see news and do my best to stay with the times, but honestly, potty training was about as much as I could handle this week. So when I have the time, brain power, and emotional fortitude to engage with what is taking place outside my small life, it can easily lead to a sense of helplessness, fear, or anger.
I can’t fix the world’s hurt, but what does it look like to love those in my life more than I love myself?
- Honoring each person I come in contact with as God’s creation.
- Smiling and talking with those who help me at the grocery store.
- Keeping granola bars in my car to give to those I pass on the street who are hungry instead of avoiding eye contact.
- Staying off my phone to engage with those who are purposefully with me or those who happen by.
- Listening and not reacting negatively to those who see life differently.
- Not easily taking offense when I feel threatened, mocked, or ignored.
- Returning kindness for rudeness.
- Taking time out of my comfortable life to engage in something less comfortable.
- Inviting folks to my home to share a meal, play a game, help entertain my children.
And most importantly, doing all these things in front of my children so they can see God’s heart for His people.
My world may be a bit small at the moment, but I have two little sets of eyes watching my every move, hearing my every word, and imitating my every action.
If I want to help change the world, I can start at my own home, in my own neighborhood, and in my own city.
Social and political agendas will never change or heal the hearts of men. No president, congressman, or supreme court justice will save our souls. No terrorist, act of violence, or inflammatory speech can overcome the power of God’s love that casts out fear.
But if we aren’t careful, our rhetoric on these things can alienate us from our neighbor, from someone desperately looking for hope, from a lost heart longing for good news.
And I acknowledge the times I have been the one too concerned with my holiness and rightness, and less concerned about loving. I have been part of the hurt, trying to love God but not really loving His people.
My prayer and desire during this time of change, upheaval, and uncertainty is to ask the Lord for the strength, compassion, courage, and wisdom to love my neighbor. And this I can do because of the answers Jesus gave to his people. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…and then love others more than yourself…because I have first loved you.”
I need not fear, despair, or take offense, not if I am loving God with all that I am.
I need not worry about my children and the world they are growing up in because my very being is grounded in the source of all Love.
I can pray with confidence that these two littles whom I love so very dearly, will grow up to be men who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God no matter what this world may bring.
I may not be able to bring about worldwide change, but I can be “Jesus with skin on” to those hurting in my own backyard.
May I have the courage, humility, and love to do so.
Written by Becca Biel