LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
Today, there was an historic vote on gay marriage. I saw so many different things on different social media sites – some people cheering, others lamenting. The Word of God is clear about marriage and many other things, but the thing I think He is most clear about, and the thing we seem to be forgetting, is how to treat others.
People like to debate now, much as they did then. Jesus, however, always seemed to instantly put a stop to any debate – usually by turning their focus to where it really should be:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
I am a Christian – I have no doubt about the Word of God, it’s truth, and His sovereignty. I really cannot debate gay marriage, because my only reason is what God says in His Word. So, I really can’t get into all the philosophical debates. I stand only on the Word of God. But, I have dear friends that I have known and loved since childhood who are, indeed, gay. Do I love them any less for this? Of course not. Would Jesus have loved them any less? Certainly not. As I pointed out before, he never really yelled at anyone in anger, except the “religious” leaders and people of the time.
I think we tend to gloss over this verse about loving God and loving your neighbor. We decide if we do a mission trip, tithe, and give diapers to the local women’s center that we are loving our neighbors. But, I don’t think that’s what He meant.
We sit in our comfortable homes, eating our bountiful meals, and drive our comfortable, air conditioned cars right past the needy. We will yell about this or that going wrong in the world, and stand up for our rights. Yet, Jesus did just the opposite when He was here.
Notice the man in this verse, after hearing Jesus, replies – but with interesting ending added to the statement, “…to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And then, what does Jesus say to him? He says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Jesus was telling him – you get it.
Breaking this down a bit…it seems that the emphasis here, after the obvious of loving God the most, is to take care of others as well as you would take care of yourself. All the other stuff – all the participating and making sure everyone knows you are giving and doing all the things that good Christians do – well, it kind of seems like the burnt offerings and sacrifices. Don’t get me wrong – with the right heart, these are all wonderful things. But, when we praise God out of one side of our mouth and hate our neighbor with the other, I think we are missing it.
God never said UNLESS here…He did not say love your neighbor unless he is scamming people by panhandling. He did not say love your neighbor unless they are heading into the abortion clinic – or, even still, performing the abortions. He did not say unless they are sitting around all day living on government checks. He did not say love them unless they are gay.
Even more, He did not say love them just a teeny bit – just enough to make you feel a little better about yourself. Not just enough to check it off your “good Christian” list. Not just enough to give them a meal at Christmas. No. He said to love them AS WE LOVE OURSELVES.
Now, even if we claim low self-esteem, we still all love ourselves A LOT! We feed ourselves and clothe ourselves and clean ourselves. We buy nice things for ourselves. We take ourselves out somewhere fun on the weekend or on a vacation that we tell ourselves we heartily deserve. We really, really, really love ourselves.
But, do we love others just as much? I know I don’t. We can go on a mission, and that is a wonderful endeavor, but are we loving the people you are serving as much as we love ourselves? We can run a clothes closet for unwed mothers, but we you loving them as we love ourselves. Or, are we actually looking down on them…feeling superior as we stoop down to help them? Do we examine our hearts enough to know?
Well, with all this rambling, I really need to circle around to my son. You see, I don’t want him to be the kind of Christian who thinks he is better because he has found Jesus. No! I want him to feel that because Jesus died for him, he now really and truly is a living sacrifice! I don’t want him to spend his life trying to get the best job and buy the biggest house and drive the nicest car. I want him to give the way Jesus gave. I want him to love the way Jesus loved. I want him to have just as much love for that alcoholic on the street, for that abortion clinic doctor, for that gay couple, for the married couple in church that are cheating on each other, as he does for himself.
I come to you this evening with the realization that I am far from “getting it”. Or, to be more truthful, I get it, I just don’t want to make that kind of sacrifice. Lord, soften my heart and turn my desires to You, so I can be an example to my son.
And Lord, can You please undo some of the damage I have done? Will You please show my son that what is really important is not a great college and a great job. What is really important is living for You – giving all for You. Lord, I do not know the plans You have for my son. Your plans may include college. He is bright. I know You need educated, professional people to carry out Your work.
All I pray for my son is that whatever Your plan for him, please keep him on that path. Lord, please teach him to love the way You loved. Teach him to give the way You gave. Teach him to always give the glory to You, and to realize all that You have given for him.
God, I feel my prayers are kind of repetitious. I seem to be focusing on this need to see what You really mean in Your word, and to live a life based on that. I feel an urgency about this, Lord. I know he is walking into a world that will tell him the opposite, in every respect. I want him to be so solidly grounded in You that he never loses that love or that compelling need to give and to serve others.
I ask these things in Your holy name, Jesus.