Making a Difference in the World:  Love Thy Neighbor

Making a difference in the world begins with love.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NKJV

As a Christian, I read the above verses from Mark 12, and I understand that I am commanded to love.  Love is a command, a non-negotiable action.  Love God, love my neighbor….as myself.

Love your neighbor seems easy enough until I realize what it exactly means.  My own experience proves loving another is easy when the gesture is returned.  But…

  • how do I love the unloving?
  • how do I love the one who abuses his child?
  • how do I respond to the one who neglects the very children with whom she has been blessed?
  • how can I love, truly love them unconditionally?

During the few months of foster care training, I had to personally and honestly confront these questions.  My heart still grieves to hear reports of the abuse and neglect being incurred on children in my city.  My mind races to react and protect as I become aware of the lost innocence these young lives experienced at the hands of their adult guardians.

Yes, I understand that I am commanded to love.  But, how do I love my neighbor who has inflicted such harm and neglect on his child?

 

Making a Difference in the World:  Love Thy Neighbor

The command to love my neighbor comes from Jesus, God’s Son, who experienced “firsthand despair, rejection, poverty, bereavement, torture and imprisonment.” [1]   Before Jesus was captured and the crucifiction events began to unravel, tucked away in an upper room with His disciples having a final supper, Jesus already knew a short time remained until the faithful men surrounding him would be faced with decisions and make choices to betray Him, deny Him, and even desert Him.

Jesus knew them and their future; and, yet, in that moment of His knowing all that was to come, Jesus took off his outer garment, bowed down before each of his followers, and washed their feet.  Humbled before them, the Son of God loved His neighbor, His earthly brother.

Romans 5:8-11

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through ourLord  Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

My confrontation with those questions still cause me pause when I hear of a child who has suffered at the hands of her parent or guardian.  On my own, I have come to realize that I am not capable of such a love.  But within my heart, I hear the reminder contained in Romans 5:8 and other scriptures that clearly point out God’s love for me even when my sins rendered me His enemy.

May our Lord continue to soften my heart and lead me down from my self-righteous pedestal to see the hearts and lives within fractured families as He sees them.  They are lives that need to know and experience His love and forgiveness.  May I draw upon the that love and forgiveness He has showered upon me to genuinely extend an authentic care and concern for the adults in foster relationships.  May my family become a true resource to them, so they will come to know what it means to be truly loved by their neighbor.

 

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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

 

“Joy is love enjoying itself;
Peace is love resting;
Patience is love waiting;
Kindness is love reacting;
Goodness is love choosing;
Faithfulness is love keeping its word;
Gentleness is love empathizing; and
Self-control is love resisting temptation.” Charles Spurgeon

1 Corinthians 13
1    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;

5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;

6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

 


[1] The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller

image source:  Paul Scott Flickr