May 24, 2009

Love your Neighbor as Yourself

Jesus says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Last week we looked at loving ourselves by being in community. Loving your neighbor is simply the next step.

Society may say that you have to be one of the ‘beautiful people’ or the ‘in crowd’ to be worth anything. That puts you in competition with everyone around you to be first and best. If you are competing, it can be difficult to love someone because you are trying to be ‘better’ than them.

The way of a Christian is very different. It means embracing those we don’t like and seeing them as brothers and sisters not as someone to ‘best.’ The story is told of St. Francis of Assisi meeting a leper. At first he was afraid to embrace the man, but when he did, he discovered that he was embracing Christ.

How many of us would rather name someone as ‘leper’ instead of embracing them as Christ?

It may seem impossible to change our mindset, but Jesus says, “Fear not, I have overcome the world.”

It can be a stranger who opens our eyes to the opportunities and possibilities of God’s grace.

Rahab was a foreigner and pagan who brought fresh faith to Israel. In the 2nd chapter of the Book of Joshua, she finds the faith to hide the Israelite spies because she knew “the Lord your God is he who is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Rahab voiced true faith even before she really knew the Living God.

In my book Rahab’s Redemption, she eventually comes to realize that all she has been through, even her life in the temple of Baal has formed her to be a faithful servant of the One God of Israel.

The week of holy celebration passed. The meal that was the culmination of the week was joyful. Perez with Tirzah and his family joined us for the lamb and other foods of remembrance. Sarai and Caleb along with Jamal, Elisaba and Judah completed the group. There was much laughter. As the symbolic meal was consumed I felt my heart expand with love for each person present.
I sought to share my feelings.
“The God of Israel did not forget the promises made to Abraham,” I marveled. “Through all the generations the Holy One remembered. When the time was right, the Living Lord acted.”
“It is true,” assent came from Caleb
“Before you left Egypt, you were divided as tribes. God formed you into a mighty and united people capable of inhabiting this land.”
Looking around at my Hebrew friends, I spread my hands to indicate the vastness of the territory available to the Children of Israel.
“Rahab, what you say is true.” Salma drew me close to his side. “My father speaks of the slave pits of Egypt. I remember the long years in the desert. Both were hard to bear.”
“Yet, like my life in Jericho, the experiences are part of who you are,” I had to share the sudden insight. “The Living God used what seemed evil and transformed it into freedom. Before I knew what I sought, that same God found me. Now I am the most blessed of women. You, my husband, and this child of our love are proof of the love of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to all people. I was a foreigner, yet the Holy One found me faithful and accepted me. It must be true that all people are one to El Elohim Israel.”
Now that I had shared my perceptions I leaned against the man. I felt a tender kiss.
“My wife, you never cease to amaze me,” the whisper was spoken for my ears only.

Who is the leper in your life who needs to become your neighbor? Where is God in your neighbor?

I hope you have enjoyed these mediations and that these ramblings have given you a new insight into our Lord’s command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Check back for other meditations in the future during the season of Pentecost--the long period between the day of Pentecost (May 31 this year) and the beginning of Advent.

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