Monday, August 30, 2010


“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."

-Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 5:43-48) NLT

"Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasinly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."

-Henri Nouwen
Jesus was 'tested' by an 'expert' in the law when asked: 'teacher was is the greatest commandment of the law?' In the end Jesus summariezed that it was love- at the core of the answer and at the core of the law should be love. Now, that's an interested concept considering we all have a tough time with love-especially when it comes those who have betrayed us. There are those who have hurt us physically, emotionally, and whole-heartedly. But Jesus tells us to pray for them and He takes it a step further...He calls us to love them. In fact we are told that if we are to be true children of God we are to love.
So why is it that we love ourselves more than we love others? What is the reason that we push away those we love and who truly love us to seek an empty love instead? I think it's found in a fundamental change concerning our society and culture. When you look at television ads they give us a false sence of the world-if we party, we are 'social' and we have friends (most beer and cigarette commercials). If we have the latest and greatest cell phone or computer, we are 'connected' and cool-we can show our friends we're keeping up with the times and demands (think Verizon and BestBuy). 
I mean seriously, did you see the last BestBuy commercial? The guy is talking about a tv and blu-ray player combo/deal going on and it has the latest technology! In fact, they make it a point to show that you can 'tweet' while on the couch. Really? I thought that if I had a phone with the twitter application I could do that already...honestly, do we need this stuff?
In Henri Nouwen's book: 'Reaching Out' he talks about how we actually don't deal with our fear of loneliness. Instead, we choose to busy ourselves by clinging to other things that change our focus away from such an anxious thought. In fact, we cling to relationships in hopes that it will make things better and that we have convinced ourselves that this will be better.
When was the last time you took some time to be alone? When was the last time you took a step back, took a deep breath, and took some time to really search yourself? It's no wonder most of us keep asking ourselves: 'is there more to this life'? Nothing is filling us up anymore! We move from one relationship to another and often ruin relationships and ourselves in the process. 
There are those of us who have in the past and still continue put ourselves out there for the enjoyment of others-debasing ourselves in hopes of finding a common ground, when we know there's a difference between those who laugh at us and those who laugh with us. 
So, what is your definition of 'neighbor'? I think we have taken a step or two back concerning our definition. In fact, I think the Old Testament definition of neighbor is our definition today. Would you like to know what it meant back then? Back then, your 'neighbor' was someone who merely held the same believes and convictions as you-it was a click. When I think back on what neighbor means to means someone outside of my usual group of friends. Someone outside my comfort-zone.
When you look at what Jesus said in the above passage, He's trying to broaden the minds of those around Him. He's trying to get everyone to think outside the box-to see that 'our neighbor' has a much broader meaning. Yes, it can be someone whom we don't know or never met, but it is also someone who we no longer associate with because of past differences.
Lets be clear though, Jesus didn't say that we won't have enemies, He merely points out the core issue-that we're still bound by love. You see, Jesus changed the game! Just as the sun rises on those who are evil and those who are too did He die for all us-the just and unjust alike.
I know you've heard a lot of things in your life, but I challenge you to remember that we're all children of God and that we're all loved and called to love. While some have gone astray (and that may have been you or may be you now), that doesn't mean we are to stop praying for them. We may not like what they do, but we are still called to love (and that can be tough and downright hard)...always remember that you are loved and that you're called to love.

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