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Pastor's Corner

The Greatest Commandment

When they asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He said that it was to love God, with every part of ourselves. Then, He thought it was necessary to add a second part to His answer- "Love your neighbor as yourself". He didn't say it in way that meant, "Hey, you know what else is also probably a good idea? Love your neighbor." Rather, He refused to allow the love of neighbor to be separated from loving God. In fact, Jesus said loving God and neighbor was what the whole Law was all about. God's teaching to mankind is not an arbitrary list of things He likes and doesn't like, nor did God try to figure out how to ban fun from human existence. The whole of God's communication to mankind is an attempt to teach us what it means to love another.

We like to use that word "love" for so many things, though. "I love my wife! I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! I love green." What we mean is that we like something intensely. We mean affection. So, what happens when I am upset with something my son has done? I don't feel affection, but anger, hurt, or fear for him. Does that mean I don't love him then? This love seems to be a fickle thing, so how can it be the center of existence and God's will for me?

In the Bible, "love" implies loyalty and commitment, rather than affection. Affection is good- God encourages that too, but that is not the love we are commanded to experience as the central value in our lives. Commitment and devotion to the wellbeing of others is. My life is not about me and my agenda. It's about you. Now we have a problem. Because you are not me. I natural seek to preserve myself, feed myself, comfort myself. My natural inclination is to react strongly to positive and negative things that happen to myself.

Jesus knows this. Maybe that is why He said to "Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF". What if I began to see those around me- those who live on my street- my literal neighbors- as myself? What affects them affects me. What if I sought their victory and security?

What if I thought of my neighbor as my own family? After all, we don't get to pick any member of our family except our spouse. Our parents, siblings, cousins and even children are basically just "issued" to us. And we get to choose to learn to love them. Often, we do it so well, that their needs take priority over ours- even though we didn't pick them.

Our neighbors are sort of issued to us as well. We didn't really pick them, directly. Can we learn to love them? It kind of sounds like it- after all, we do it with family. So how do we build relationship with family? By spending time together, working and playing alongside one another, having conversations about everything from silly to serious. And we don't abandon them, even when we disagree. We keep coming back.

As we enter the "holiday heavy" months, we often see it as a "family building time". What if this year, we thought of it as a "neighbor building time"? What would that look like for you? How can we begin to create the kind of relationship with our neighbors that we have with our families?

Pastor Evan Elwell

Pomeroy Church of the Nazarene

 
 
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