Exactly how?


Friday Reflection


1st January 2021


'do we love our neighbours
 as ourselves? '

37 Jesus replied:
 "'Love the Lord your God
   with all your heart
   and with all your soul
   and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first
   and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it:
  'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

... Matthew 22:37-39. NIV

As we come to the beginning
of the New Year what is going on
in our thoughts, dreams, hopes
as we look to the future?

I'm sure foremost in our minds
is that the new vaccine
will augment the first and
together they will be
the answer to our prayers
for a healthy, happy year
filled with peace and love;
for ourselves,
our families and loved ones,
and the whole world.

I love the song
'Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.'
It reminds me that while a
Utopian world is a
good thing to aim for,
we as individuals must
play an active part.

That is a good
New year's resolution
to top our lists,
if we have one.

When we read Jesus'
command to
'love your neighbour as yourself,'
does it puzzle you slightly?

After all, aren't most of us
more likely to dislike rather
than love ourselves,
being overly self-critical?

If we are going to obey
Jesus' command,
we first need to understand
this idea of self-love.

In today's key passage above,
we see Jesus introduce the concept,
when asked which command
in the law is the greatest.

The original Greek word
translated 'love' goes beyond
having a warm, fuzzy feelings
towards someone or about ourselves.

It suggests action;
it means
'to have kindness toward;
to take regard to their welfare.'

Based on this definition,
self-love goes beyond
feeling good about ourselves
(which we don't always feel)
and means taking action
in regard to our own welfare.

When we think about that,
we realise we are already
pretty good at this!
We look out for our welfare
each day when we make sure
our basic needs are met
through food and drink,
warm clothing to wear
and a comfortable place
to rest our heads at night.

But you and I both know
that we often take it one step
further beyond our basic needs;
we take 'me time'
by going for a walk alone
or doing something we find fun.

We buy ourselves special
treats and might pamper
ourselves with a manicure
or massage.
These are all ways
that we practice self-love.

So, now we know what
self-love looks like,
who is our 'neighbour',
and how do we love them
like we love ourselves?

In our passage from Matthew
Jesus refers to two Old Testament
passages, Deuteronomy 6:5
and Leviticus 19:18.

Based on the meaning of
'neighbour' in Leviticus,
Jesus' audience would have
defined 'neighbour' as a fellow
Israelite or a resident alien
that was welcomed
and living in the community.

However, through the story of
The Good Samaritan,
Jesus extends that definition
to anyone who needs our help.

Jesus illustrates a more
extravagant love than that
required in the Old Testament
teachings -
and then commands us to show it.

How do we love anyone
who needs our help
with the same love
that we show ourselves?

In his letter James wrote;

15 Suppose a brother or
   a sister is without clothes
   and daily food.
16 If one of you says to them,
  "Go in peace;
   keep warm and well fed,"
   but does nothing about
   their physical needs,
   what good is it? '

... 2:15-16. NIV

We can certainly work
to meet basic needs -
especially of the marginalised
and overlooked.

We can buy and deliver
hygiene products to
homeless shelters
or set aside some of our
grocery budget each week
to purchase some needed
items for local food banks.

But is that enough?
There are others closer
to home that need our help.

We could seek out that
busy mother with two young
children and offer
to babysit for free
to enable her an
afternoon of 'me time'.

We could purchase
a special dessert
or a small gift for someone
we know who needs
their day brightened.

Such simple gestures
speak volumes of love,
comforting others showing
they matter,
as we meet their needs.

Let's not allow the words of
Jesus to stay printed in the Bible;
let's give them wings,
springing them into action.

There are people in our lives
that need our nurture.

Let's consider how we might
show our concern
for their welfare,
loving and caring
for them the way we
already love and care
for ourselves.

When we do,
we'll be completing
the chain of love
that began when
God first loved us.

Wishing you all a very happy,
healthy and blessed 2021
filled with the love joy
and peace of God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit