On Tuesday I shared a devotional on what it means to love your neighbor. I wrote many of those thoughts nearly a year ago, and it was my plan all summer to be posting about this particular topic this particular week.
I had no idea I’d spend this particular week seeing Jesus’ call to love our neighbor misquoted and misused so frequently. My social media feeds have seen quite a lot of push back this week to the outpouring of condemnation of the white supremacy and racism expressed in Charlottesville, NC over the weekend.
Listen, white pride rallies in 2017 are a lot to process. I get that. It was shocking and surprising to a lot of people (not many people of color, I’m guessing?) I was dismayed at the outbreak of violence, I was glad to see so many Christian friends calling the rally what it is (racism and a travesty of the Biblical understanding of each person made in God’s image), I was sad that Charlottesville was not mentioned or prayed about in my church on Sunday morning.
But what surprised me was the stream of friends and commenters, over the course of the week, saying that those who are speaking up against things like Charlottesville are part of the problem. I was surprised to hear that what we really need to do is shut up and love our neighbors.
Y’all, sometimes loving our neighbors means speaking up when someone is propagating hate against them.
And Biblically? From the actual chapter and story which give context to Jesus’ call to love our neighbors?
Loving my neighbor = Compassion
Loving my neighbor = Action
Loving my neighbor is the opposite of being silent in the face of hate, evil, or even neglect.
Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan in response to a religious man who knows he’s commanded to love his neighbor:
But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The Message translates this “looking for a loophole.”
Two centuries later, we’re still looking for loopholes. We’re still crossing to the other side of the street. We’re still thinking about ourselves and our religion and rules, rather than asking hurting people, “How can I be a neighbor to you?”
I don’t know what love requires in the face of Charlottesville, or the upcoming planned white pride rallies (one of which was planned at my beloved Texas A&M, but was thankfully cancelled.)
But I don’t want to look for loopholes, or seek to justify myself.
I want to ask Jesus “Who is my Neighbor”.
And I want to listen when He says my neighbor is anyone I can help. Anyone to whom I can show compassion. I want to be a neighbor.
I don’t want to be silent or silence others. I want to act, in compassion, always.
I want to learn from this ancient story of the good Samaritan.
Make no mistake: it is not an accident that Jesus chose a political and racial enemy as the hero of this story. The covenant keeper, the one who fully lived out God’s command to LOVE was an outsider, Other. In His name, I want there to be no limits to who I will call a neighbor.
If you spoke up: You are my neighbor.
If you were silent: You are my neighbor.
If you are a recipient of racism, either the hooded, Nazi kind or the smaller more insidious kind: You are my neighbor. (How can I be a neighbor to you?)
I’m trying hard to say even of those who participate in rallies like these, and those who defend them, and those who are telling me to be quiet and love my neighbor: You are my neighbor.
But in saying that, I know they can’t just be words. If I’m going to follow the Good Samaritan’s example, I need to ACT. I need to SHOW COMPASSION. And it might cost me.
This summer I’m sharing some of my own lessons and thoughts from a Bible study I wrote with my friend Stacey and did with a group of (amazing) women last Fall. This 8 week study, The Call of Jesus, is available for free here or by clicking the “Free Bible Studies and Resources” link in my blog header. If you’re looking for a Bible study to do yourself or with friends this Fall, check it out!