Love God? Got it.
Love others? Who!?
I assume that most people who read this are people of faith. That faith may be expressed in different ways, but I assume my readers love God and want to honor him. So I want to consider what does this “love others” mean?
Some have dismissively told me that they “love everyone.” So why even write this? Well, I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter.” It is used in many weddings to define true love. I suspect that if we consider the “other” in light of the love chapter, we may come up short.
Who the “other” is largely depends on your vantage point. If you lived in Ireland the “other” might be a Protestant or a Catholic. Democrats and Republicans in the United States have different definitions of the “other.” Jews, Christians and Muslims have all been termed the evil other by someone.
A problem with labels is that they allow us depersonalize “others.” It is much easier to despise a label rather than a schoolmate we know or a mother named Tabitha with two kids, Beth and Ryan. If I reduce you to an abstract group of generalizations, I don’t have to get to know you or respect you as an individual. I already know what you believe and where we disagree and that YOU are intransigent in your position. Jesus calls us to a radically different way of relating to the “other.”
When a religious scholar asked Jesus what was the most important law to obey, (Mk 12:28-ff) Jesus referenced the Jewish Shema (Dt6:4) and expands on its implications.
‘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.”
Scot McNight did a great job of unpacking these implications in his book titled, “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others.”
When Jesus was asked to define the “neighbor” he pointed to the “Good Samaritan” as an example of how we should treat others. Samaritans were a minority that had been despised and isolated by the majority. Jesus however, routinely treated them with dignity. He prevented his disciples from calling fire from heaven to destroy the pesky Samaritans who refused to accept Jesus into their community. He spoke respectfully to the Samaritan woman at the well and even stayed with the Samaritans for a few days. I think Jesus might be giving us some guidance about how we treat the “other.”
A friend said that when the election is over we will have to live with each “other.” In my work, I see the Muslims and Christians define each “other” in very negative terms. I want to encourage you to follow the wisdom of Romans 12.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
As we reject the inclination to let fear and rhetoric define another “other,” let us take seriously the words of Jesus that tell us to love even our enemies. Is this utopian? Perhaps, but it is what Jesus called us to do. Why not read 1 Corinthians 13 now and ask yourself if you truly love the “other.”