The challenge to love

by Barry Newton

I do not know how Susan rings the church office door bell. Presumably she holds something in her hand to depress the white button. To my shame I have forgotten the name of her skin condition that has deformed her hands as it has tightened her epidermis into a taunt surface like a balloon set to explode.

To prevent further complications, she avoids all direct human contact as well as any object others may have handled. As might be anticipated, she is not employed. She is unmarried. She is among the poor of our land.

Susan evokes various reactions from people. Sometimes she is the recipient of sympathy and pity, while others may simply pretend she is not there, being unsure of how to respond. Since she can be demanding and rude at times, some probably are curt with her. She is among the poor of our land.

Nearly 2000 years ago as James extolled the principle of “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” he identified two barricades preventing people from exemplifying love. The first is prejudice.

Prejudice extinguishes love by fostering a judgmental attitude with evil motives (James 2:4). Writing bluntly, James commanded, “do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1 NET).

Discrimination prompts us to differentiate how we act toward others, thereby shutting down the spigot of love toward some.

Another insidious enemy of love entails extending mere pleasantries. Having said kind words such as, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” a Christian might feel vindicated in being a godly loving person.

James rips this polite mask away exposing a worthless religious corpse. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NET).

Even without these two obstacles, the challenge to genuinely and actively seek the well being of others, whether they be poor or not, can be challenging. Love does not empower self-destructive ways, nor does it always spew gentle affirming words.

In spite of the hurdles, Jesus rose to the challenge of loving his neighbor and he calls us to follow in his footsteps.

Whether rich or poor, whether oriental or occidental, everyone can justifiably sing, “Jesus loves me this I know” because he acted for our well-being. He gave his life for us upon the cross.

As Jesus’ followers, what do our actions proclaim about our heart motivations toward everyone who may walk into our assemblies or live in our communities? To what degree do we look like those following Jesus?

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