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Love Thy Neighbor

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:37-39 NASB)

To love thy neighbor as thyself
Because it's the nice thing to do,
The unselfish thing,
Because we ought,
Because we can't do otherwise
With God's law woven 
Into the very fabric of our hearts,
Echoing God's yes and no,
Right and wrong. (Rm 2:15 MSG)
And if we don't at least try
Our conscience will accuse us
Or our conflicting thoughts 
Will try to excuse us. (Rm 2:15 ESV)

"Well, I gave it my best shot;
I followed regulations;
I wore my mask;
I kept my distance.
No one can say that I didn't
Love my neighbor as myself
Or that I somehow interfered with his good,
Even though I don't know what his good is,
Nor what God is doing in him,
Nor what he most needs right now.
But I think I do"
For the heart is deceitful 
And desperately sick;
So I think I can understand it? (Jer. 17:9 ESV)

To love thy neighbor as thyself:
It is what we were meant to do,
The proper way we function,
What God asks of us,
What he requires of us,
What he demands of us:
To love our neighbors as ourselves,
Even though "All have turned away, 
All have become corrupt;
There is no one that does good,
Not even one." (Psalm 14:3 NIV)

To love thy neighbor as thyself,
To not just appear to love
But actually love
With genuine interest
In their occupational routines 
And relational conundrums
And digestive troubles
And favorite sports teams
And their recent vacation to the Bahamas where they stayed in this excellent hostel with an outdoor shower and walking paths down to a little beach where a local was selling coconut-lychee water, which you really ought to try.
To find them interesting not because they bagged my groceries or babysat my children or read my blog or seem to have life figured out, but because I am in awe at how they are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139:14 ESV)

To love my neighbor as myself,
To long for their good as God does,
To desire for them what I can't unless
I stop seeing them as a threat
Because they don't love like I do
Nor behave as I think they ought.
And the image of God in them
Doesn't look like the image of God in me,
So someone must be wrong
And here I am
Trying to prove it's not me
Because I must take the high ground
Where I can stand and defend myself (Bonhoeffer, 91),
Where I can condemn and judge,
And say, like the Israelites,
"All that the Lord has spoken we will do,
And we will be obedient." (Exodus 24:7 ESV)
And then they went and 
Made their golden calf. 

To love my neighbor as myself,
The impossible asked for by God
But that I repeatedly believe
I can do by submitting to regulations,
"Do not handle,
Do not taste,
Do not touch . . . 
human precepts and teachings" (Col 2:21-22 ESV).
"These are matters which have,
To be sure, the appearance of wisdom
In self-made religion and self-abasement 
And severe treatment of the body," (Col 2:23a NASB) 
But "they do not take away a man's desire to sin" (Col. 2:23b NLV).

Nothing can take that away.
Indeed no one can make me fit to love others
But God himself
Asking the impossible and then doing it. 
He has done it already
In a life drenched in the selfless love God demands.
That alone can be my answer
To the accuser who will ask me every day
Why am I not as bad as everyone else?
Why should I not be blamed?
Why am I not trying harder?

And now I have an answer,
"I don't have to 
Any more.
He has."
That is why
Now I can love my neighbor as myself.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together. Translated by John W. Doberstein. New York: HarperCollins, 1954.


ShackelMom said…
This is SO good, and really does describe how loving others as ourselves (!) is a constant struggle, but is all about Christ. <3

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