Mark 12:29-34 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Notice the word equally. Loving our neighbors as ourselves doesn’t come in a close second to the first commandment. They are in a first place tie. They share the same space, equally. These are the two that tie the 10 Commandments with a cosmic ribbon, which is why I never understood the 10 Commandments monuments. I guess when we see in large displays to love our neighbors at schools and court houses we might actually have to love like Jesus.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves is not to be confused with loving those that are like ourselves. This is the conundrum some churches have found themselves in. There are so many churches that have congregants that look like they all came from the same clothing store, the same barber or salon, the same everything. If a family comes in that is of different style, color, age group, sexual preference, or not as a traditional family, they get the silent treatment or worse, kicked out. If they were to love these people as themselves they would show these “others” the very hospitality they themselves desire.
Who is our neighbor? This answer is so simple but is missed all the time. The answer is the sunglasses perched atop our heads while we look on the countertops for them. It is with us and yet we look everywhere for the right answer. Everyone. Yes, everyone. Close your eyes and visualize what everyone looks like. Did they all look familiar? If yes, go back and try again. It’s hard, isn’t it? To see everyone, much less to love them, is a difficult task. Nobody said following Jesus was going to be easy. The world says, “This person is a monster.” Jesus says, ” Love them anyway.” SO HARD TO DO!
Let’s try a what if scenario. “What if someone is evil, what if they have seriously hurt people?” The next question is a doozy. “What if someone loved them like Jesus before they decided to be filled with hate? What if someone, somewhere early in life, showed them the true love of God, of Jesus, through themselves?” We are not created to be bad in the world. We are made in His image which is Infinite Flowing Love. What if we loved all of our neighbors as ourselves, as created in the very image of Love?
So let’s love our neighbors today and everyday. Young, old, gay, straight, male, female, transgender, rich, poor, free, imprisoned, liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, black, white, asian, Indian, Arab, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Christian, feminist, Hindu, skinny, plump, and the list just goes on and on. God loves diversity, doesn’t He? I guess that means we should, too.