History tells us that in the early days of Christianity, people of the faith of Jesus Christ had to meet in secret, fearful of their safety should the Romans find out what they were doing. I look at our world today and wonder if Christians have gone into hiding once again, afraid to talk about Jesus – the model of who we are called to be as His followers; God – the Father who created us in His image; and the Holy Spirit – the force that was unleashed to empower the beginning of the church, but whom people today seem hesitant to call upon.
I say this because the hate, divisiveness, and unwillingness to listen to one another seems to have gripped us at a time when we desperately need to be united to fight off this pandemic and its effect on our society. It’s time to decide if hate or love will win the day.
Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest. His response in Mark’s Gospel was this: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
He was asked to state the greatest commandment, but He didn’t stop at one. Why? Because the best way we can show God our love is by loving our neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel is one most people are familiar with that answers the big question, “Who is my neighbor?” Two people of the same nation as the injured man on the roadside passed by without offering help. Then came the Samaritan – age-old enemies of the Jewish people – yet it was he who stopped to help.
This was Jesus’ way of telling us that if we treat our enemies with love, we will defeat hatred. How do you show God, whom you have not seen, any depth of love? By loving your neighbor, whom you have seen – probably see often, which means many opportunities to show love.
My friends, we have over eight billion neighbors in this world. That’s a whole lot of opportunities to show love of God by loving everyone of our neighbors. We don’t have to totally agree with one another to love one another. Our world is in desperate need of us putting away our swords and clubs and bringing out the weapons of love and prayer. As I finish this message, I will pause to pray for our nation and our world – that love may win the day. Will you join me?
The writer is the pastor of the Anna and Botkins United Methodist churches.