Sunday, June 19, 2016

Who Is My Neighbor?

James and Ellie Carr
Last week, a young woman that I was fairly well acquainted with gave birth to her third daughter.  I had worked with her on several occasions in the past, and she also occasionally attended the church that James and I attend.  Although rumors were swirling about this young lady's past behavior, and she was currently unwed and pregnant with her third child, I still felt burdened to love her.  

Just two weeks earlier I had attended her baby shower to celebrate the new life soon to make her appearance here.  It was a joyous time of fun and games, but at the same time I was questioning whether I should even be there.  You see, I had been challenged several times in the days prior by people asking, "Are you not promoting this young woman's promiscuous behavior by attending her baby shower and celebrating her pregnancy?"  I was burdened and lost.  I felt the need to help and celebrate this tiny new life, but definitely did not agree with her past (and possible current) decisions.

Sweet baby Cristel and her two older sisters
I went to the shower, sat quietly on the edge of the room, and showed my support through quiet smiles and short exchanges with the mother when opportunities arose.  Less than two weeks later, the baby was delivered early due to a medical emergency.  Having little to no prenatal care, the baby was born at only a little over five pounds, but miraculously was healthy.  Still feeling burdened to help, I visited the new mom and three young daughters to provide encouragement (and food).

Still praising God for the life and health of tiny baby Cristel 
Without the approval of several fellow Christians, I ventured to the small rural area where I found her living in a small two room house made of scrap metal lacking even a front door.  While the young mother still could not walk long distances, she ventured out of her house to the main road to help me carry groceries.  She was proud that she was able to live alone and take care of both of her daughters, and invited me to eat with her.  I could not have felt more welcome.

After experiencing all of this, I knew I was doing the right thing.  As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor.  It isn't a choice.  We aren't commanded to love those who make good decisions, or do things that we agree with.  We are commanded to love our neighbor.  That could be anyone.  It is so easy and natural to love people who are like us, and who do things that we agree with, but we can't stop there.  We have got to do more.

But what about-

- the pregnant teen who has been rebelling against her parents for the last several years in spite of her upbringing in church?

- the father who left his wife and children to pursue his own desires?

- the young professional participating in homosexual behavior?

- the alcoholic who has ruined what seems like every relationship around him?

In the parable of the good samaritan, Jesus tells the story of a man who is robbed and left for dead on the side of the road.  While religious officials (let's picture modern-day Christians) refused to care for the man, a Samaritan (let's picture someone non-religious, or even someone who practices idolatry) actually stopped to help the man and went to great lengths to restore him to good health.  Jesus says we are to "go and do likewise."

We are to love.

Not knowing someone's background.

Even if we don't agree with their current choices.

Is that not what Christ did for us?  Who are we, as sinners ourselves, to deny this kind of love from anyone else?  I'm not saying it's easy to love people who are different from me.  I struggle with it every day.  But it isn't a choice for me.  My Father has commanded me to do so, and I am a hypocrite to do anything but that.


"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:10-11

**These are just my own thoughts and conclusions over the past several weeks, and I am still working through what loving my neighbor looks like in my life.  I would love to hear your own input and stories regarding the subject.

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