Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: A life lesson about loving our neighbors

Loving Our Neighbors
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV) 

I am currently employed at a community newspaper group and one of my responsibilities involves cataloging the obituaries per publication. Mostly, it’s a straightforward data project, opening files and saving them into a specific folder to be exported later. I love these projects. I put on a playlist of classical tunes and get my work done while my brain takes a rest.

There’s no angst involved, no customer interaction, just data. As straightforward as it is, I also find it moving. I open each file and read the name of the person who passed, maybe catch a few details of their life, and see their picture. Some of these stop me in my tracks, leading me to read the notice in full.

Managing the obituary department, I see a lot of faces of the departed. The pictures that I find the most compelling are the candid ones—people caught in their everyday existence, their expressions a window into both the moment being captured and their lives. Grandfathers with hokey hats and crooked smiles, moms with corsages beaming with pride from weddings past, uncles in sunglasses holding up huge fish, aunts laughing with friends just out of frame, a son posing with a football, a daughter with a wide smile clutching a teddy bear in a hospital gown.

Each one of them Imago Dei, which means they were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).

In the verse above, Jesus tells us that after loving God, loving our neighbors is next in importance. So much so that all the law and prophets (a euphemism for all of scripture) hang in the balance. Seems simple, and it’s easy to love someone when they’re loveable or similar to us. The challenge comes in loving those who differ from us, those we don’t agree with on some level. In our deeply divided country, we’ve made it easier to hate than to love. Our rhetoric can easily become extreme. Disagreements become pitched battles. Some form camps, raise flags, and list offenses, knowing that they’re right and the other guys are wrong. And they aren’t simply wrong, they’re evil, monstrous. It’s hard to love a neighbor who you’ve demonized.

Media pitches battles for us daily, presenting things for us to get upset about, throwing headlines to inflame our passions about things that simply do not matter on an eternal scale. We declare war on those we should be loving for trivial, worldly stuff, corporations changing their brands, toys changing their names, and a million other petty distractions. We engage in culture wars when we should be sharing the Gospel and serving our communities.

Loving our neighbor means looking past that person’s external details and seeing the image of God imprinted upon them. We need to see through political affiliations, socio-economic status, lifestyle choices and instead see that person as God’s creation.

We need to see the people around us as God does. We are all sinners. Some of us have been saved by Grace. We need to have that eternal perspective in mind whenever we interact with the world God loved so much that he sent his Son to die so that we might have everlasting life.

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, please help us to see our neighbors as you do and to love them as you commanded. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. 

She began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. After publishing a few short pieces in her college’s literary magazine she took a long hiatus during which she embarked on a few different careers, got married, had three kids, and renovated an old barn masquerading as a house.

Her most recent work, The Redemption Road, finished the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England.

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