‘Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ (Mt 22:35-40)
The whole of the law encapsulated in two commandments and common to both is the word love. It sounds so easy so straightforward until we realize that the neighbor that Jesus refers to isn’t just those who live next door to us or in the same apartment building, but as I shared in worship over the last couple of Sundays (listen online if you missed the sermons), It’s everyone, everywhere, and so we can begin to feel overwhelmed and challenged by the scale of our task and responsibility.
These simple commandments place demands on us because instead of producing a long list of things we should avoid, they challenge us to explore what it is possible to do. The list is endless, for there is virtually no limit to the human need in our world today. Recent events have shown how badly things can go when there is a lack of respect for one another, where hatred of one group or another in society leads to taunting or violent acts. There are plenty of people crying out for help and support many seeking a little kindness and compassion. The truth is we cannot respond to them all, and I don’t for a moment expect that Jesus intends us to, but how far do we react to any of the needs we find?
The Homeless Jesus statue which the church placed on the east side of the parking lot on Alabama continues to remind us of our work and witness to a community that still is ignored or at least passed by in the street by many of the downtown population.
I believe our response to others must always be the test of our commitment; indeed, it is cited in the first letter of John as the most accurate yardstick or measure of our love for God. Faith, John says, begins with God’s love for us and our love for him in response, but it cannot end there, for wherever our neighbor is in need, God is in need too, asking us to tend to his wounds, to feed, clothe, befriend and shelter him.
We might do well to ask how much do we love our neighbor and how far does our neighborliness extend these days? How do we look out for one another in a society that so often is concerned with ‘I’ rather than, ‘we’? It sometimes seems sad that we don’t hail as hero’s those, who act out of compassion and love for others, who consistently offer support and kindness to those who are so often seen as the ‘least and the lost.’
Perhaps this could be our prayer? Compassionate God, teach me to hear your voice in the cry of the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the oppressed, and show me, in responding to them, to respond to you. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
Shalom to you my friend,