Tag Archives: Loving our Neighbors

Made in the Image of God

Bernadette-malecki-ruth-la-glaneuseLiving in the Spirit
November 2, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’ She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’ –Ruth 3:1-5

From what we can gain from the story of Ruth, Boaz was a good man. He not only allowed the poor to harvest what was left after the main gleaning, but order his servants to leave extra for them. He had already taken an interest in Ruth as the story goes. At this time the primary worth of a woman was in her ability to have children. Today in many parts of the world this remains true and even in the United States the work of women is valued less than men as women make substantially less for doing the same work as men*. I have some firsthand experience at that.

Ruth was actually blessed by having this good man accept her and marry her in spite of having to entice his attention. What is it about society, about our socialization, that effectively blinds us to the humanity of groups of people? We are all guilty of this you know. Whether we discriminate by gender or race or economic status or sexual orientation or the wearing of tattoos and nose rings. We are incapable of seeing the Christ in every person, the image of God, unless we fully commit to letting God open our vision to all the spectrums of God’s creation.

There are stories of Jesus where we learn of his movement from seeing the world as a good Jewish boy to claiming the other as his own, for example, eating with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:27-32), talking to and being served water by the Samaritan woman (John 4), and encountering the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30). We, too, are called to claim the other as our neighbor and love them just as they are.

Prayer: Lord, give us twenty-twenty vision to see clearly your presence in the other. Amen.

*Women’s median annual earnings in 2013 were $39,157 compared with $50,033 for men. See http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Turning Ideals into Reality

pay-it-forward-2Living in the Spirit
November 1, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 12:28-34

Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question. –Mark 32-34

One of the hardest things, I think, in being a follower of Christ is to accept fully and completely that God loves us no matter what. Particularly for those of us who live in the United States where we thrive on competition, we think, if we just could figure out what to do and do it better than anybody else, we will be worthy of God’s love. In all honesty, it is true, but it is also true that if we did not set ourselves apart from others, God will still love us. And it is equally true that God loves all those people who we think we have excelled.

Apparently the scribe as told in Mark understood what Jesus was saying. Burnt-offerings and sacrifices were the center of the Jewish faith from its beginning. Confessing that loving one’s neighbor was more important even then this was saying a lot. Jesus’ follow-up said even more. He said that when we have all achieved this ideal of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves the kingdom of God will be the norm across all the earth.

Love is contagious and life changing. It spreads from one person to another and perhaps infects a few who realize its presence in that process. It can start when we begin to treat all people as equal. We declare it in our governmental documents, but even the earliest ones really did not mean equal to include the slaves or the indigenous peoples of this land. Today there remain outlier people in practice, even though the documents have largely been updated to mean everyone. The people of God are called to turn ideals into realization.

Prayer: Lord, make us lovers of all souls and the earth and all that is in it. Teach us what it means to love you in the process. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Credo is Love

john 16-33Living in the Spirit
October 31, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ –Mark 12:28-31

This story, told here in Mark, but also reported in both Matthew (22.32-42) and Luke (10:22-32) is the heart of my personal credo. I do not live it as fully as I would like, but I trust that if I live it to the very best of my ability, I will be on the path God set out for me. When I fail, if I seek forgiveness from God, I trust that God will guide me back to the path. I also trust that God’s path is the best path for me.

What does it mean to truly love God? I spend more time, than I am sure God appreciates, griping in prayer about trivial things that in the long run do not matter. God’s patience is amazing, but often my gripe sessions with God rids me of the doubts or fears or issues of self-worth that are limiting me in loving the other, the neighbors that God also wants me to love. Thus God is an enabler of love. Love is the needed ingredient in this world to bring the Kingdom of God to full fruition. I am a partner with God when I do love the other. Truly loving God, I think, is best realized when I am doing my part by loving my neighbor that sometimes I can only do because of God’s amazing love.

Prayer: Forgive me God when I get in the way of being the persons you created me to be. Thank you for your patience and your grace. Let your love flow in and through me until Your Kingdom comes, Your will is done. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights
reserved.

Being a Neighbor

neighborLiving in the Spirit
October 25, 2014

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ — Matthew 22:34-40

I grew up on a farm where the next house was at least a quarter mile away. When I was a child only two other families lived on the 640 acre section where our farm was located, only one family resided on the section directly to our north. In Oklahoma City there are approximately 1,000 people living in each square mile. In New York City there are almost 28,000 people per square mile. On the farm, our neighbor to the east was an elderly couple with whom we had a very close relationship. The family to the south was a married couple who had several children, but by the time I came along only four remained at home. The three boys, particularly the oldest were best friends with my brother. The daughter was a beautiful teenager who I admired when I started school. While I am on cordial terms with my geographic neighbors in Oklahoma City, they have markedly different interests and lives than mine. There is not much opportunity for interaction.

I think most of us understand neighbor in the terms I just described: someone who lives near to us. This is not the case in the Bible. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says a neighbor is according to the O. T. and Jewish conception, a member of the Hebrew race and commonwealth: Acts 7:27; and Rec. in Hebrews 8:11; according to the teaching of Christ, any other [person] irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet*

Even that does not quite get to the heart of the matter. Jesus seems to turn around the whole meaning of the word “neighbor”. It does not necessarily describe who another person is. It is about our attitude and approach to the other. He seems to say that “neighbor” is the preferred state of our being, regarding anyone who might pass our way. In a world where we are becoming more and more afraid of the others, Jesus may be calling us to practice our neighborliness by taking the time to get to know the others we meet along the way. Getting to know someone is the first step toward learning to love them.

Prayer: Lord, we know about love because you first loved us. Help us be the first to love another that we meet along life’s path. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/4139.htm

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.