“Love your neighbor as yourself” is one of the direct commands of our Lord and Savior and, to be technical/theological, it is LAW! It’s easy to love your best friend or family. Jesus says even the Gentiles do that (Mt. 5:43-46). If we are honest, we all know that we cannot live up to this command (or any other), BUT that does not mean we should not try.
Recently, Christendom has had to come to grasps with the Duggar incident, the Village Church issue, and now Pastor Tullian’s difficulty. Miscellaneous Christians were actually mad that others were praying for Mr. Duggar. In the Village Church incident, people treated the pastor as if he was a liar and not a brother-in-Christ. Even after the pastor admitted that the church had mishandled things and apologized, people downplayed his repentance. Pastor Tullian’s issue is current news and a few people are lining up to be the first to cast a stone. All these incidents are real events in people’s lives, and we have to show the same grace to our neighbor that we would want shown to our sibling, spouse, or self. Each of the sins associated with these events digs deep into our souls, but we have to put our feelings aside and love them (our neighbor) as our Lord and Savior commanded us.
Tragedies happen in everyday life. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be a descendant of the Hebrews after the holocaust—to hear my family’s story about lost relatives or read books about my ancestors and know, That would have been me and my kids. Or imagining a day after a bombing in Palestine that resulted in several people murdered solely because they were Jewish, and then seeing a Nazi flag hanging on the state capitol building and hearing people say, “This flag represents nationalism and historically it means ‘being happy.’ In Asian cultures, this symbol is found as early as 3,000 B.C.; it does not mean racism to me.”
Recently, with the Charleston murders, people as a whole have had an opportunity to love their neighbor. Personally agreeing or not with the proposed “remove the Confederate flag” movement is not as much of a key issue, as thinking about your neighbor—hear what your neighbor says about the flag. The same culture that African-Americans have always associated with the Confederate flag is the same hatred that the Charleston murderer had in mind as his goal to start a race war. Ask yourself, is this symbol so important that you will disregard the feelings it imposes on your neighbor?
Jesus says in the Sermon on Mount:
“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
I wonder what Jesus would say if asked, “If a symbol of a person’s heritage causes another brother to recall oppression, murder, rape, bondage, should they fly it in their face?”
I will not even attempt to answer for Jesus, but when I consult the Scriptures and attempt to walk a life pleasing to God (Yes, I fail! Oh boy, do I fail! But even when one fails, we should not give up trying…), I believe we should be considerate and gracious to our neighbor:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We have to stop the “it’s my heritage” talk and show love to our neighbors. First, it is their heritage too, and secondly, as a Christian, our identity is in Christ, not these earthly things. Christ is coming to make all things new. We will all be in heaven together and these earthly issues will be the furthest thing from our mind. Christ lived the perfect, sinless life and fulfilled the law—securing our value and identity in him, not in earthly things.
God’s peace, grace, and mercy to you.