What Loving My Neighbor Really Means

Each time I take my dog Sam on a walk I expect that my heart rate will raise.  After all, that’s the point of exercise.  But, last week I never expected my blood pressure to raise too.  While on a walk with Sam I uncovered a local business that had, what I would consider to be an extremely discriminating sign posted on its door.  

On Monday I wrote a draft of this Voice of Grace speaking against the sign, yet sharing how this offensive signed revealed the sin in my own heart.  At first pass that might have been a compelling and Biblically accurate piece.  Then a friend pointed me to a different way.

Gently he said, “Karen, I think that you should go down and talk to the owner of the business and find out what he really means by that sign.”  So, an hour after that conversation, I took Sam on another walk and paused outside the business long enough that the owner waved to me.  Yet I couldn’t go in and engage him.  It was easier to be outraged from afar than do the hard work of asking questions, listening and engaging this gentleman in genuine dialogue.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?  I realized tonight that it was easier for me to to speak out publicly against injustice than to speak with the one who I perceived to be perpetrating this injustice.  Often it is easier for me to speak about those I disagree with than to speak with them instead.

I am not for a moment suggesting that we do not do everything in our power to fight against injustice, racism and prejudice in our society.  To do so would be to show a lack of love for our neighbor who is being sinned against.  

But what if God intended for me and for all of us to draw our neighbors circle a bit wider?  What if God considers our neighbors those who commit injustice, those we disagree with, perhaps even those who will vote very differently from us in the upcoming election?

What would happen if we decided to engage those that we disagree with instead of just expressing our rage publicly?  This conversation with my friend helped me to see that the Gospel calls us to that.  The Gospel calls us to love God with all our hearts and to “love your neighbor as yourself” for, “to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Later in the Gospels, Luke asserts, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”  

The Gospel calls us to love, even when and especially when it is uncomfortable to us.  It calls us to love those who do not love us, to love those who disagree with us.  So, what does this mean for me?  It means I must muster up the courage to talk to this business owner and love him as my neighbor by speaking the truth in love and humility and genuinely seeking to engage him.

But what does loving your neighbor mean for you?  Is there someone you need to privately engage in love and humility instead of merely expressing public outrage against?  Is there someone you need to dialogue with instead of dialoguing against?  

Pray for me as God pulls me kicking and screaming into a conversation with this neighbor.  Know that I’ll be praying for all of you at GRC as God leads you, hopefully not kicking and screaming,  into listening, dialogue and Gospel conversations with your neighbors too.  

Karen Jacobsen is our Director of Children’s Ministry and Refuge 686, a ministry to raise awareness and support for foster and adoption care.