August 20, 2014

Our Neighbor's Worth & Our Call to Love


I've been thinking about what it really means to love others--to love my neighbor as it were--lately. 

My natural default position is to love those who I deem are worthy or deserving by an internal checklist my mind has conjured up. I'd be willing to bet you do the same thing. If someone doesn't cut it via the list, then I don't really go to a whole lot of trouble to affirm their value and purpose here on earth. Sounds horrible, right? It is. (Fess up--you do this as well too.) It's really horrible. It calls for repentance on my part. A repentance that leads to pro-action in the reverse of this apathetic, surface-y, polite, but not-really-caring type of courteousness. 

Loving people how Christ desires me to often doesn't look a thing like the scenes I've scripted and played in my head.

I've been finding it increasingly more and more disturbing to not be building relationships with non-believers--who are my neighbors... or at least they're supposed to be. There's a part of me that's really uncomfortable with being constantly surrounded by people who think and act and believe the same things I do. And then there's a part of me that's terrified to actually share my faith. 

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I remember back to those preschool days when my teacher taught us songs. Songs about Noah's ark, and Jesus love a-bubblin'-over (or something like that), and another on how others would know we are Christians by our love.

By our love. 

I don't think that's really what Christians at large are known for by those looking in on us. You know those outsiders.

These days it just seems that people know a person is a Christians by their politics, by their stances from the big to the infinitesimal, by their show-y success and celebrity status. But that's not how that simple, profoundly true children's song goes.

We've given up loving people to win arguments, to win points of debate, to win fame. We lost people in that though.

I'm tired of having to come up with reasons to justify loving a person though. Seriously, it's exhausting. I don't want to have to think too hard to extend a hand of graciousness, kindness, or sisterhood.

Here's a dose of truth: Every. Single. Person. Has. Worth. They just do. We cannot take away or give out worth, because that's God's business alone, and he's imprinted each and every human being with his image. People we find difficult or don't particularly like... maybe even hate--still have worth in their Maker's eye. God doesn't see you and I or any other human being as we do. He sees them as his children. It's not a perspective I stand in often when looking at others.

No. Worth is not something we give or take. But what you and I can--and as Christian should--do is affirm one another's immense value to the heavenly Father. That's loving our neighbor.

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Sometimes we have moments where we get that inner sense of God speaking to us so crystal clear: "Natalie, would you still love this person if you never got the opportunity to see them change... to know me? What if you're just a seed planter in their life, not the cultivator, nor the harvester? Would you still love them?"

Somewhere in me grace swells, and I find myself responding, "Yes. As you have loved me I will love them, regardless of the outcome." 

This is what it means to obligate ourselves to love. This is what loving our neighbor looks like. 

We get caught in our Christian bubbles though. We get comfortable. But we have to start somewhere. And I had to start with the question I now pose to you...

Do you actually know non-Christians?
If you don't then, why?

If we believe in a rich relationship with the Savior, shouldn't we be heeding his words to go out and make disciples? Go means action. Go means meeting, seeking, and relating to those who haven't yet heard the same sweetness you and I have in the Savior's voice. Go is not living in perpetual comfort in the church pew.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. ~Matthew 28:16-20 MSG
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