Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
If you are at all like I am, it’s very hard to look at a social media newsfeed without being bombarded by countless value statements, many of which play some sort of religion card. And these religious claims are almost uniformly based on the idea in the second important command. Love your neighbor.
The big debate, of course, is not whether or not we should love our neighbor. That’s part and parcel of Christianity. But what does that love for neighbor look like? Here’s where the conflict begins. It’s a conflict which causes many who are not Christians to question a Christian commitment to love of the neighbor. And it can even cause deep divisions within Christianity, as it may bring different groups of Christians into conflict. For instance, how do we love our would-be neighbor who wishes to immigrate? How about the neighbor who faces job insecurity and fears the addition of more available workers? What about our neighbor who is losing a fight with substance abuse? What about the neighbor dealing with sexual identity issues? What does love for the neighbor look like in those cases?
Many Christians find themselves either with no answer to these questions, or with difficulty finding a rhyme or reason to organize their responses. However, I would suggest it is more straightforward than we might first assume. In the two verses immediately preceding, we are reminded that there is one true God, the Lord of Israel. We are to love that Lord with all our beings.
How does this make for a straightforward response to the problem of loving our neighbor? First and foremost, by our love for the true God of the Bible we take on His values, His definition of justice, His concern for repentance and restoration. The greatest way we can love our neighbor is through helping him to love the Lord, to take on His values. This in turn helps those whose lives are broken by the condition of the world to find ways to compe, to ask help in pursuing godly character, and to work for the restoration of this world to a right relationship with God. That is what pulls our world together.
The answers are still difficult. In the end we have to balance more needs than we could possibly meet. We find that some people will lose their battles no matter what we do, just as some would win despite all odds. But over time, as we love and trust in God, we are able to make a difference in some poeple. Above all, we have opportunity to show God as the Lord of all. This doesn’t solve all the problems the way some would demand it. Our remain question to the detractors is whether they, too, will commit to loving and trusting the God of Israel with all their hearts, and loving their neighbors as themselves. Love of neighbor, to be real love, is predicated on love for the true God.
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