Really Trying at Loving our Neighbor

From the pastor…

I John 3:23-24 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

On the fourth Monday of the month, I lead a bible study called Pub Theology at Prost on Main Street. January’s lesson was on Working-what God hopes from us in the jobs and careers we work. Towards the end of the lesson, member Lois Beery said to her small group, “You know as I get older, I just think it is about loving people. Whoever God puts in front of me when I worked or now when I am retired, I need to figure out how to love them.” I drove home that night what beautiful and wise words these were.  

Her statement took ownership of her obligation to love whom she encounters. “I need to figure out how to love them.” The love that John had in mind in the scripture above is not a passive thing. It is intentional and active. And this sort of love starts with belief and trust in Jesus. You say you believe in Jesus? Then John suggests it should show up in how you live. Are you making time for the worship of the God whose love and grace sent Jesus to save us? Are you encouraging, supporting, loving Jesus’ body on Earth now, the church. John pairs belief and love together. Don’t tell me about believing in Jesus if you aren’t loving your brothers and sisters in your church.

John in other parts of the three letters near the end of the bible teaches similarly about loving. You say you love one another, show me. How is your language communicating that love? How are your actions communicating that love? What about your willingness to forgive those who have hurt you? How about loving those you don’t agree with? What about loving the stranger who looks different than you? Are you just loving when the opportunity presents itself or like Lois said are you actively trying to figure out how to best love everyone you encounter?

A friend of mine, retired Pastor Tim Kuenzli, ends all his emails with the line, “Love God, Love Neighbor, it’s really that simple.” Of course, many of you will recognize that as similar to our mission statement at Messiah, Loving God and Loving Each Other. Love seems simple. It is definitely simple to say and claim. It is even simple to understand. We know what loving actions and words look and sound like. This isn’t rocket science. The hard part is being committed to living out our promise to love. God’s hope revealed in Jesus is much more than ending our emails with pithy sayings about love or plastering every bulletin or newsletter with mottos about love. God’s expectation is that God’s children will love. Day in and day out. 24/7.

Maybe we can all start our day with a prayer lifting up the wisdom that Lois shared at Pub Theology, Lord, help me figure out how to love every person I encounter today. Of course we will fail. My bet is that God will delight more in forgiving our fumbled attempts at loving than forgiving either a refusal to love or an unwillingness to sacrifice in order to love. It is really up to us every day to figure out how to love whomever we encounter.

Peace, Pastor Karl

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