November 17, 2012

Who is my neighbor?

After one day in a booth at a good-sized craft fair, I’ve noticed something about myself. When I am interacting with only a few people over time, I can more easily pick out negative points and flaws, even become judgmental. However, then interacting with dozens, even hundreds, there is no time or desire to do that. 

As I watched the oceans of humanity go by our booth and talked with many who stopped to look at what we have, my focus was on answering their questions and helping them find what they were looking for. I felt no inclination to notice anything other than what they needed. 

When I read the following passage, I thought about my sinful tendency to avoid being loving to those who are close to me.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him (Jesus) to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25–29)

The lawyer tried to avoid the requirements of the command to love his neighbor by becoming picky about who fit that qualification. Jesus’ answer shows that God considers anyone in need is my neighbor, no matter who they are, what they need, or how many personal hang-ups they might have.

Being loving or at least kind toward strangers is easier, at least for me. I will never see them again and do not have to maintain a longer relationship. I will not discover their quirks and foibles (nor they mine) so my ‘love’ for them will not be tested by anything that they do or do not do.

It is different with a few friends and over time. After I get to know someone, there are more challenges to maintaining a loving relationship. Some ‘friends’ turn out to be gossips or backstabbers. Some tell lies or brag about themselves. Some are even unkind or mean. Those ‘neighbors’ are more difficult to ‘love’ than the people I’ve never met who can’t find the washroom or need help with their packages. 

As I write this, I realize how different my ‘love’ is than the love Jesus is looking for. The love of God is not about the worth or supposed worth of the recipient. His love is unconditional because it does not depend on the person. He loves because that is who He is. 

I still have great need for mercy and grace to be obedient to His commands.

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