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On the Journey...
Monthly Insight From Pastor Phil Yoder
August 5, 2020
Love Your Neighbor… As Yourself
Someone came to Jesus once and asked him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus told him, “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second commandment was just like the first, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40). Wait a minute, Jesus. These aren’t in the Ten commandments, are they? Well, it turns out that actually they are. They are a summary of the Commandments. And if we do these two Commandments well, we will fulfill all the commandments.
If I am to love my neighbor as myself, a good place to start is to ask, “How do I love myself?” I confess that when I look in the mirror, I do not always like that guy who is looking at me. And yet I do take pretty good care of him, I feed me, and with some pretty good food. I bathe myself, cloth myself, comb my hair, and then look in the mirror again, and then again, and then again. If I feel any pain, I am quick to take medicine or go to a doctor. On a regular basis I seek my own happiness and pleasure. I plan for retirement, I buy flattering clothes, I turn the thermostat up in the winter and down in the summer because I like to be comfortable. I try to keep a good reputation. I want people to think well of me. I try to hide my sins, hide excess flesh, and use deodorant to hide what I hope nobody else smells. I go for walks, go to the doctor when I am sick, and to the dentist even when I don’t have a toothache. I go to concerts, go to parties, go to bed when I am tired, go on vacations, go out with friends, go to nice restaurants, and go for ice cream. I read, write, and sit in my easy chair. I eat broccoli and spinach because they are good for me, but more often, I just eat chocolate and ice cream because they are good. You get the picture. I may not always like that person who looks at me in my mirror, but I do a pretty good job of loving that guy.
So, how do I love my neighbor? Ah… well, this is a bit harder. Jesus said to “Agape” your neighbor, and that is even harder. Perhaps, I should just start by treating my neighbor as I treat myself, and now that I think about it, I treat me pretty well. I do not gossip about me, but if I have something nice to say about me, I am sure that others know it. But I most certainly do not tell them if I have done something wrong. I generally am very thoughtful and kind, and generous to me, and I would never do anything to harm me. I think of things that would make me happy, and make sure I get them. But, I have seen me overeat, and get grouchy, and cut off slow drivers who get in my way, and there are days when I am not very spiritual. Some days, I don’t exercise my body or my mind as I should. At times I am undisciplined. I make mistakes, and have been known to do some really dumb things. But I am so quick to convince myself that that’s not who I really am, and I should overlook those tiny little imperfections. Oh, and I would never ever think of telling anyone those things. I know little secrets about me, but believe me, I know how to keep a secret!
Over the years I have developed an incredible capacity to forgive, to accept, to overlook faults, to focus on the good and close my eyes to the bad, to forget, to move on after a mistake, to keep believing in, doing good to, seeking what is best, and caring in so many ways when it comes to loving ME. And I didn’t even know I had these wonderful capabilities. They have become highly developed and natural when it comes to loving ME, and I never noticed them.
I wonder, did Jesus really mean to love… my neighbor… in the same way that I love me? Does Jesus really know my neighbors? Does He know what it is like to live close to them? I mean, they smoke, and they drink. They drink a lot, and then throw their beer cans out along the road. Once, I caught their kids stealing apples off my apple tree, in broad daylight! They cuss, they play loud music, if you can call it music! They’re not frugal with their money. They put off firecrackers at midnight when some of us are trying to sleep because we have jobs and have to get up in the morning. Their dog comes over in my yard and, well… you know. They don’t look like me or think like me. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and I am afraid a few are socialists. They even had “Vote for Bernie” signs in their yard last summer! They go to the casino and gamble their money away. Some are Catholics, a couple are on welfare, and two are Muslim. One whole house full, and who knows how many are living in there, are undocumented! Two are gay, two are shacking-up, one still flies the Confederate flag, one is a felon, one is an atheist, and most don’t go to church at all! Jesus, you can’t possibly mean “love them as I do ME,” do you? They really aren’t as good as…
I must confess, sometimes I think of this – I WONDER HOW DIFFERENT THIS WORLD WOULD BE, IF THOSE WHO CALL THEMSELVES BY CHRIST’S NAME WOULD REALLY TAKE JESUS’ WORDS AT FACE VALUE, AND LOVE THEIR NEIGHBORS AS THEMSELVES?
BY PHIL YODER