Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Thought for Wednesday 5/22/13

“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  Romans 13:10

To be as prominent a word and biblical ideal, “love” is the most misunderstood and misquoted even in this context.  In failing to understand that love of neighbor is “fulfillment” of the law, we have somehow reached a point at which we declare that love negates “The Law”, especially as St. Paul also writes, “We are not under law …”  Translated?  Therefore we do not have to.  WRONG! 

The commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is not a strictly Christian ideal; it is a commandment of the Most High God (Leviticus 19:18) and is affirmed by Jesus.  It is not negated in any way except in our complacency and refusal to go out of our way or give in any way that may inconvenience us, but it is also not defined by how we may feel at any particular time.  “Love” is a decision and a commitment to something much greater.  Love God but hate neighbor?  St. John says God is not in that heart even if we may fool ourselves by declaring that “only Jesus knows what’s in my heart”.  Yet the biblical principle is consistent: we love God by loving our neighbor.

Let us also not misunderstand “love”, though.  Do we express our “love” for our children by allowing them to go into situations we know are risky?  Of course not!  We protect them, and we punish them if they go outside established boundaries not because we get to but because we “love” them (even though they may say they hate us, we persevere for their good).  This same “love” is expressed to our neighbor who goes outside reasonable boundaries without a word from us.  We know the risk involved and yet we say nothing because we are afraid of being accused of “judging” them.  Yet it is the very lack of love that allows us to neglect what is good in favor of what is safe.

Jesus did not call His disciples into a life of safety.  It seems ironic that the Lord who protects us and keeps us safe from the evil one is the same God and Lord who calls us into a ministry that does not come without risk.  We need only to look around and see that the dying churches are the churches that are playing it safe and risking nothing.  The vital and growing churches are sticking their necks out.  The dying churches “love” their places and their traditions.  The vital and living and growing churches “love” God and trust God and continually prove their love of God and neighbor by taking risks for God in their ministries to their communities.

Love is all-encompassing and compels us to move outside of ourselves.  Otherwise it is just another four-letter word.


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