What I’m chewing on today: 1 John 4:11, 19-21
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
I don’t think we all have to like each other or even agree with each other… but we have to love each other. And in this passage, we see that the opposite of loving someone is hating them. No in between. So what does it mean to hate others? What does that look like in our lives today?
Imagine a person you don’t like at all. Someone you vehemently disagree with morally, spiritually, and politically. Got them in mind? Now imagine that you’ve found them hurt and dying by the side of the road. Do you help them… or leave them to die?
About 2,000 years ago, that same scenario was addressed when an expert theologian asked Jesus an important question. He asked, “What must I do in order to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus didn’t give him a long list of things to do. He asked a question that fell well within theologian’s circle of knowledge. “What is written in the Law?” Jesus asked. “How do you read it?”
The guy, probably feeling pretty good about himself and his understanding of scripture replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
So… Jesus affirmed that the theologian had the right answer. But at that moment, the man had questions. Perhaps his mind filled with images of the people in his life that he did not love as he loved himself. People he considered dirty. People that he didn’t even consider people. In his heart, they weren’t worthy of love from him…and certainly not love from God. So this happened…
“But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?””
As always, Jesus knew the subtext of the man’s question. He knew the fella’s internal struggle.
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus asked.
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
I can imagine the theologian sighing and wish he hadn’t asked the question. But he did… and now we have the answer, too.
Are we willing to leave our “enemy” by the side of the road? Or are we willing to “go and do likewise” by choosing love and mercy over hate? How do we love in daily situations that don’t involve “road side” emergencies? What does that look like?
I think the answer can be found in I Corinthians 13: 4-7. But it’s also hard a hard pill to swallow. So I’m just gonna leave this right here… and chew on it a little more.
“Love is large and incredibly patient.Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter,for it never stops believing the best for others.Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.” (The Passion Translation)