Jesus declared that loving our neighbor is right next to loving God on the importance scale of the commandments God gives. Why? Why should I love my neighbor, besides the fact that Jesus said so and besides the fact that we as humanity were created for relationships and malfunction without them?
Could it be that loving my neighbor is less about a rule I keep and more about a love that must be given? What if I should love my neighbor, because the evil one is on the prowl to steal hope from the people of our world, and loving my neighbor is God’s chosen mechanism for His church to communicate His grace and love and hope to the world.
THE BOTTOM LINE – what happens when we don’t love our neighbor, when we disengage from our culture, when we live as though church is a product for my benefit rather than a people who live on mission together, we are declaring that God loves me but He doesn’t love you.
The evil one is out to devour us. I have to protect myself. But doesn’t that imply that he wants to devour the people of our culture, too? What about them?
Critics of culture teach that “those people” are dirty or that our culture is corrupt. And they are right. But so am I!!! How arrogant and self-absorbed to live to only protect myself but not my neighbor.
The balance does exist, though, that we don’t want to flippantly play with the “lion that is out to devour us.” But that is where we must listen to the Spirit while living in this world but not of it. To withdraw completely does not rely upon relationship with Jesus and discernment in the Spirit. To withdraw completely and “protect myself” is reliance upon a religious system and results in a self-righteous pietism.
So, we must engage. And, since there are evil forces out to harm us and steal life from us, we must carry shield (faith) and sword (God’s Word) as we engage. We are at war afterall, but we cannot stay at home so that we won’t get hurt. That would be comparable to not flying again after 9-11.
The deception lies in the thought that we are safe at home. This is not my home, though, the Scripture teaches. I am never safe, while trapped in this skin and tempted by the lust of this flesh. I am always in need of carrying my shield and weilding my sword.
Another deception lies in the thought that we should fight to preserve “Christian culture.” There is no such thing. That is an irrational thought, because lost people fill our world and they will continue to act lost unless those who have found the Way show them the Way and those who have found the Treasure share it. Read Romans 10:
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentiles are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
The fact is that Jesus did not come so that I would be able to have a safe, beautiful, edifying, peaceful, existence. The fact is that Jesus both came to restore a broken world that He loves AND to call those who trust that He so loves the world to love like He loves so that others might taste what He intended for us – a relationship with the loving, living God. Which is risky. He risked it all to love like that. Will we?
Not if we exist to consume the Christian religion for personal benefit with clean, orderly, safe lives. We MUST be followers of Jesus who live dangerous lives storming the gates of hell rather than consumers of religion who passively survive while those lost behind the gates suffer lonely and unaware that they are love.
Thank God Jesus didn’t sit satisfied in His royal state safe in the throneroom of heaven, but put on skin, risked it all, and gave it all so that we could be fully aware that we are loved and not just left to die.
May we not leave our neighbor there left to die. May we not leave our neighbor there hopeless and alone. May we, in both action and conversation, show our neighbors that they are loved with an everlasting, transformative, abundant, purposeful love.
How beautiful are your feet?