We’re talking this month about love and how we see our neighbors, literally the people on our street, whom we know and run into. Maybe you know your neighbors. Maybe you rarely see them. I know in this day and age it takes a bit of work to get to know one’s neighbors. Jesus quotes from the book of Leviticus, saying “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). What did he have in mind? Certainly, it means our faith happens in our relationships with one another. It’s not just about a private relationship with God. How we love others reflects our understanding and our own relationship with God. They are intricately connected. Last week I challenged the church to get to know your neighbors, making sure you know the first and last names of people who live around you. If we’re going to love our neighbors as ourselves, it’s good to know people’s names! When we have the opportunity to do something for a neighbor, sometimes just getting acquainted overcomes some isolation and loneliness. When we share some kindness and compassion, it goes a long way in a neighborhood.
When it comes to love, the way of Jesus always seems to me to be the way of self-giving. As God offered God’s self to the world in Christ, so we offer ourselves to others. Sometimes this is easy and convenient. Other times, it’s more difficult. We know the early church faced some tough moments when it was hard for members to love each other in this way of self-giving. The churches in Corinth and Galatia had arguments and division, people who were unhappy with their founding pastor (Paul), disagreements over the rules that needed to be followed. When we think we’re right and others are wrong, we may give our opinion more than our love. In these churches, love seemed in short supply. Paul quotes that same passage from Leviticus about loving your neighbor as yourself and says it sums up the entire law. It all comes down to treating others with the love we also have for ourselves. Then Paul says: the only thing that counts is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). That’s the most succinct summary of Jesus’ teaching and the rules in the Old Testament. What would that look like for you, to share faith working through love? Sunday we worship God who refreshes our love so we can care for others in this amazing way of Jesus.
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