Aug. 19, 2016

But God complains in your neighbor

"You must love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt.22:39-40)

The word LOVE appears about three hundred to five hundred and fifty times in the New Testament which shows how important it is in both spiritual and social relationships. In our scripture reflection today, Jesus answers the question about the greatest commandments: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt.22:38). This looks simple. We claim to love God as much as we can even if not enough. God is not visible to complain to us. So, only the individual knows how much she loves God, and how much she should have loved Him. That's the greatest commandment.

And Christ says, "The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself". That's more of a serious demand for several reasons. First is that Christ does not make this a conditional demand. He uses the auxiliary verb, "must" which makes the action of loving obligatory. Second, he extends the the image of the individual who loves to the one who is loved, "...love your neighbor as yourself". You need to see you in your neighbor. Third, he commands the individual to an evaluation of self love which will be a measure for loving "your neighbor". The question becomes, "Do you love yourself enough and sincerely?" If you do, can you love your neighbor as yourself?

Here, we remember the conversation Christ had with the Jewish lawyer who asked him, "And who is my neighbor?" His neighbor went far beyond his Jewish expectations and became the Good Samaritan who had cultural, religious and ideological differences with him. But that's the hard truth of love.

When Christ says, "You must love your neighbor as yourself", who comes up your mind as your neighbor? I guess your next door neighbor, friend, sister, brother or close associates, right? Now think outside that box. Your close relatives, family members are part of your life, they are your neighbor, for sure. Of course, you can't love outsiders if you spare no love for insiders. But you must go beyond those close players in your life. But even if we settle for those very close to you, the question remains, "Do you love them as you love yourself?" 

So, has anyone you love offended you before? What reactions do you put up? Have you really felt hurt by anyone's actions that you admire? What's your response? Shun the person, put her in bracket, severe her contacts, give her the backside. You don't need her by the way. That's it. Keep going and damn her. But have you offended yourself before? Any time you ever regret your actions, messed up, failed to perform? Do you know you offend yourself when you offend another person? Perhaps you don't realize that. Maybe you should shun yourself too, severe contacts with yourself and move on. That's not possible. Yet, the second greatest commandment of God is that you love your neighbor as yourself.

God wants you to love those you meet despite who they are. Resolve your differences when you get mad, when your neighbor offends you. The differnce between your neighbor and God is that you hear the visible complaint from the neighbor when she feels offended, you don't hear God complain. But God complains in your neighbor. Why not love me? Why not forgive me? Why not resolve that difference with me? Why not open up to me? Why not treat me as you see me? That's God speaking to you through me, my dear neighbor. Can you try to love me as you love yourself? I know I'm not good enough, but try.