Monday, March 11, 2013


Loving our Unlovable Neighbor is not Easy, but Do-able with God’s Help

Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Could He mean the grouch who never says “thank you?” The boss who criticizes you for praying over your lunch? The sibling who steals your parents’ inheritance? The so-called friend who tells lies about you? Such actions easily bring strong reactions: avoidance, anger, hatred, retaliation, or worse. But Jesus said we are to pray for our enemies. Rather than react to their wrong deeds, we are to act in love. As Jesus did on our behalf. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things … and endures all things. Love never fails.


Second Best
Containers of food pantry items often overflow with boxes of cereal, packages of rice, and other items to be distributed to homeless and low-income people. What a great contribution from those with a generous heart! On the other hand, some people donate only their throw-aways. Why should the recipients have to eat our stale, worthless food—our dregs?

Perhaps food shelf organizations should insist on inspecting all donations before accepting them. That would surely mean fewer donations, more work on the part of volunteers, and perhaps anger from the donors. Yet, how would we feel if we were on the receiving end? Would we be thankful for any free food? Would we feel slighted at receiving old stuff, believing that the church or organization didn’t care that much about us? Would we vow never to accept handouts or ask for help again?

The burden of responsibility and action must be on the donor. The Bible has much to say about giving our best. The Israelites were told to offer the fat of animals—the most prized portion of the meat—as a sacrifice to God. And they were to give their best with willing hearts.

Jesus also taught about responsible giving. After following God’s first commandment to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Who among us would not want the best portion? We all strive to be the best, have the best, and glory in our best—selfish humans as we are. Yet Jesus tells us to love others as much as we love ourselves. Such a command is not easy. It requires sacrifice. Love. Humility. Giving our best to those we dislike and disdain.

Jesus’ parable about God’s judgment teaches us about sacrificial giving, about giving our best. “I was hungry and you gave Me food … thirsty and you gave Me drink … a stranger and you took Me in … naked and you clothed Me … sick and you visited Me … in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

When the righteous asked how that could be, He answered: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (verse 40)

Lord, we want to give our best to You and to Your people. Help us release our selfish hold on things for the sake of those in need. We want to follow Your example of sacrificial love and generosity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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