Love Your Neighbor

I started this blog shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, and except for mentioning it briefly in one or two of my posts, I haven’t written about that or any of the political and social unrest that has characterized the past year. While I would be happy to discuss my personal opinions on those topics in a private conversation, I’m not going to write about it in detail at this point either. Suffice it to say, there has been a huge amount of heartbreak, sadness, discouragement, and despair. These emotions have been experienced by millions of different people in different ways and for different reasons. 

What I do want to write about is my bewilderment and disappointment with the way many people who claim to follow Christ have responded in the midst of it all. I have seen and experienced friendships torn apart and churches divided. Anger, judgement, and mockery is directed towards those who have a difference of opinion, and arrogance and pride reign in the hearts of those who are convinced only their view is right. I would expect to see such division and heartlessness in the world, but to see this behavior happening in churches and among fellow believers has been disheartening, to say the least. 

This polarization and division should never have occurred in the body of Christ. Our unity in Christ, and the love we should have for God and one another, are paramount above politics, pandemics, and personal opinions. 

What has happened to loving each other despite our differences? Was this just a nice thought we had when everything was going well and we never really had to put it into practice? What has happened to putting relationships above rules, love above legalism, bearing with one another, and welcoming each other? Romans 15:5-7 is a challenge to us all: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Likewise, in Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Are the significant differences between us now enough to push aside what Jesus describes as part of the most important command there is? 

We should model righteousness and lead by example, but judging people’s motives and shaming them is not going to win their hearts. This is not acting in love towards our neighbor. And there are not only one or two ways to love our neighbor, either. We each have different weaknesses, fears, and hardships, but our pride and lack of compassion have kept us from listening and understanding the struggles of others. We all need Jesus equally. We have all sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23), and we all live in a fallen world. Our struggles differ, but the sinful state of our hearts is universal. As believers, our love and compassion for others should also be universal, as we remember our own need for God’s grace, forgiveness, and guidance in our lives. 

It’s easy to find fault and criticize, but we are held responsible to follow our own convictions, not to judge those who aren’t acting according to how we think they should be. Romans 14:10-12 says, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” 

I am not saying that we should never speak truth, exhort, or admonish others. It would make no sense for me to say that, since my entire blog so far has been built on my view of truth according to Scripture. But we can speak up for what we believe to be true about a certain situation while still maintaining and valuing close relationships with those with whom we disagree. We can listen and strive to understand their perspectives. In humility and grace, we need to allow for the possibility of the Holy Spirit leading and convicting others in different ways. There are often situations where a lot of nuance and gray areas are present. Many things aren’t completely crystal clear. And even if we do believe something is crystal clear because of a command or moral teaching in Scripture, it is not our job to convict, convince, or condemn our neighbor for being wrong. It is our job to be faithful to God’s Word and our own convictions, and then to LOVE our neighbor. 

So many things have changed in the past year, and so many of them have been painful. But God has also taught me so much through this. I think God has used this situation to expose a lot of sin and problematic areas within people’s hearts and lives. I’ve seen my own pride and arrogance brought to light, too. I’ve had to humble myself and admit I was wrong about some things. I’ve learned that God is the only one I can trust to never fail me when other people have let me down. I’ve had my heart and mind opened to new possibilities and opportunities that I never thought I’d consider. I’ve become even more thankful for my relationships with family and friends who have stuck by me through it all.

So, I continue to wait and pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future (cliché as it may sound). I’m looking forward with hopeful expectation of what God will do through all of this. I pray that the events of the past year will ultimately result in more lovingkindness towards others, reconciliation of relationships, repentance where it’s needed, and spiritual growth. 

I’ve been thinking about a song lately that is really relevant (link below). My prayer is that all the struggles and trials of this year are truly God’s Mercies in Disguise.

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