It can be the easiest thing we do on any given day. It can also bring us the most challenges.
One look at my granddaughters and you know, loving them comes easy to me. Sure there are challenging days when they drive me crazy but love them – never a question there.
And then there are the others ….
You know the ones. They not only present a challenge, they are the challenge.
I recently read a book which has been on my “to read” list for a long time. I am not exactly sure what took me so long to actually get the book off the shelf and begin reading it except to say, the time had come, the time was now, and the time was right. I actually think it was the fact that the book is small in size and would fit easily into my purse while traveling. But the book is not small on its message. Not at all.
Even since being home, now almost three weeks, I have found myself going back to read my notes and underlinings. Its message still provoking and stirring my heart.
Of all the points and messages in this book, which I so loved, this is the one I have repeatedly returned to read. It is on this very subject of love and how Jesus teaches how to love …
We see Jesus who abhors passivity and violence, who carves out a third way (to love) that is neither submission not assault, neither fight nor flight. It is this third way. Wink writes, that teaches that “evil can be opposed without being mirrored … oppressors can be resisted without being emulated … enemies can be neutralized without being destroyed.” Then we can look into the eyes of a centurion and seen not a beast but a child, and then walk with that child a couple of miles. Look into the eyes of tax collectors as they sue you in court. See their poverty and give them your coat. Look into the eyes of the ones who are hardest for you to like, and see the One you love.
(Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution, page 280)
Jesus does weird things but the weirdest of all has to be how He loves those who hate Him, hurt Him, betray Him and walk away from Him.
We would so much rather teach a person a good lesson of justice or give them what they deserve.
But what if the lesson we were to teach them in those hard moments was actually a lesson on love?
A lesson on how to love when love is so hard to do, or to give?
Jesus knew love was going to be difficult for us so He helps us out a bit …
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.” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)
It seems simple enough. He was straightforward in telling us.
I have come to realize part of the problem is with our definition of “neighbor”. Let’s face it … we choose where we are going to live with great consideration. We buy our homes doing “research”. We look for neighborhoods with the best schools, like minded people, same economic background, manicured lawns. Loving some of our neighbors may come easily.
It becomes a matter of how we define “neighbor”.
So I decided to look up the word “neighbor” in the Greek and discovered it has a slightly different nuance than I expected … “those in close proximity.” (New Testament Lexical Aids).
Close proximity. On any given day, there are different ones in close proximity to me.
Can Jesus possibly be meaning ….
- the woman who keeps ramming her cart up my ankles in the supermarket?
- the neighbors fighting & throwing punches outside in the middle of the night?
- the person we share an office or cubicle with?
- an arrogant boss who is condescending?
- the person sitting in the pew in church next to me?
- a friend who betrays?
- the one who takes advantage of our generous spirit time and time again?
What happens if Jesus means “them”? What happens if we were to take the words of Jesus seriously?
And what happens if we were to take Shane’s words seriously and put them into action?
I am guessing our “neighbors” may be surprised. Perhaps they will change. Or not.
But I know we will be changed for we would have obeyed the words of Christ. We would be loving our neighbors the very way in which He has not only commanded but shown us the way.
“Look into the eyes of the ones who are hardest for you to like, and see the One you love.”