For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
Loving one’s neighbor… it is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It sounds so perfect. It sounds so easy. Jesus summarized the entire Law into: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. How much more simple could he make this? What other instruction is needed?
In all its simplicity, however, we are colossal failures. It is not that we don’t love our neighbors it’s just that we don’t love all of our neighbors, all of the time. We seem pretty good at loving some of our neighbors, some of the time – at least the “neighbors” we like. But this does not fulfill the commandment.
Why is loving our neighbor so difficult? What is it about them that makes showing them kindness and consideration such a challenge? What’s wrong with them? Well, they are sinners. Every last one of them. And the true enemy loves to point out the flaws of other people. And we love this. Seeing other’s flaws makes us feel superior. Our pride loves the fall of others. And so, our love turns into judgment which turns into hatred. The enemy is happy, and our neighbor is unloved, not helped, not lifted in prayer, and not forgiven. And we feel superior.
This feeling of superiority should point out our own sin. Our pride has caved into Satan’s lies, and we have loved ourselves more than we love God and most certainly more than we love our neighbor. We have failed. We have sinned. Now we need forgiveness, love, help, and prayer. A serious look in the mirror tends to lower our noses a bit.
Our neighbors are people. As Luther said in 1535 (LW 27, 58), “This person is not a devil, not a lion or a bear, not a stone or a log. This is a living creature very much like you… Thus nothing could be regarded as worthier of love in the whole universe than our neighbor.”
We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). A little food for thought as we kick off 2021.