When a testy lawyer asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied that it was necessary for him to Love the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. That pretty much encompasses everything from who we are, to what we do. Luke 10:25 -37) A true Christ follower will be, and do.
When the lawyer pressed him as to who was “his neighbor,” Jesus went on to instruct the lawyer about the man who had been beaten and tossed aside on the Jericho road. Both a Priest and a Levite had passed by the man, avoiding going near him, even passing by on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan went by and was moved with compassion. He helped the man at his own expense. Once again we see an example of Samaritans as recognizing the Messiah, this time not by being, as the woman at the well did when she acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but in the example of doing the things of God. The despised Samaritans loving and serving the Lord completely. Hmm.
Throughout the bible we see acts of justice as a main theme – and if there was one thing Jesus was passionate about, it is acts of compassion and social justice. The purpose of hanging out and helping hurting, downtrodden, and lost people, is that they may witness something bigger in us – something outside of ourselves – and be inspired by it to want the change. We do the serving and Jesus does the changing.
How can we love others as ourselves if we don’t love ourselves? We may have lots of fruit, speak in Christianeze, even do some works, and yet not really embrace God’s love for ourselves. Eventually we burn out, get cynical, despise the constant falling short of who we think we should be, and never find the heart of Christ in ministry. We hate, more than we love ourselves.
Work for the sake of work is work – work for the sake of love, is Jesus.
When we see ourselves as perfectly created in the image of God and allow him to love us into perfection, we can love others more perfectly. Somehow our own flawed and fallen humanity, humbles us into a beautifully marred and chipped work of art. If we don’t love our own art, we won’t appreciate the canvases that are just beginning to witness their first brush strokes. We will get offended at the scribbles and neglect to instruct the artist in proper techniques, nor embrace the uniqueness and individuality of the piece.
Seeing ourselves as Christ sees us is the catalyst for change in us. Anger, fear, pain, heartache, addictions, loneliness, depression…whatever we are facing begins to melt away when we embrace the love God has for us. The struggles of this life decrease as the measure of His love increases. Then and only then, can we love our neighbor.