It’s easy to love my wife. She is cool and committed. It’s not always so easy to love who Jesus calls my “neighbor”
When I don’t interact with people on any meaningful level, I force life to become heavy and unreal. By getting to know the messy person sitting next to me, or the ones living in the house next door, over the office divider, or in the eyes of that beggar on 4th street, I make my life “real”. My perennial alienation comes not from culture per say, or from the breakdown of the family unit in the 20th century, or any other social ill; it comes from a lack of any meaningful relationships anywhere.
Relationship is the nature of God and in God I find an anchor to make sense of reality.
If I love God I must love my neighbor. Simple. I can fake being a God lover by acting like the people around me in church. I just pepper my vocabulary with churchy words and wear a spearmint smile all the time. I can do that and get by with church membership and a place in the choir. Dandy. But I can’t fake loving your neighbor. It just doesn’t work. I either love people or I don’t. It is self-evident.
In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus replies through story that everyone everywhere is our neighbor. It is not, as the Sadducees believed, just the guy living in the house next door, or as the Pharasees held, the people with whom you share a common bond through family and friends. No, your neighbor is everyone, and the way you treat everyone is the acid test of your love for God.
So, how much do I love God? Well, again, it’s self-evident. Everyone can see how I treat my neighbors.
If I want life to feel real and of substance, if I want to end up having lived and not just existed, and if I want to end in close proximity to God, then this question of how I go about loving my neighbor is of ultimate importance.
So love them, I tell me. Love them.
I love people. If you want to see a team that practices the love I refer to, check here: Partners Relief & Development.