Leslie’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Peter 4:18
Last night around midnight, as Trey and I were lying in bed doing our daily Bible reading, we heard a knock at the door. Not a polite “sorry to disturb you in the middle of the night” knock, a frantic “I know you’re in there, open the door” kind of knock. Trey threw on his t-shirt and went to the door, opening it only enough to pop his head out into the breezeway of our apartment complex. The Knocker (as he shall henceforth be called) was obviously under the influence of either lots of alcohol or lots of marijuana. He greeted Trey by saying something like, “hey man, I saw you at that party last night!” To which Trey replied, “Nah, that wasn’t me. I don’t party much.” Then, to my amazement, Trey stood there, talking to the Knocker for a good five minutes, never raising his voice, never trying to dismiss him, never giving the slightest impression that his knock had interrupted our evening. He simply gave the poor guy directions to where he was trying to go and told him to be safe.
When he came back to bed, Trey didn’t say “wow, that guy was crazy/drunk/high” he said, “I hope he’s okay.” And we spent the next few minutes pondering whether or not we should call someone to come pick the guy up. After deciding not to make the call, we prayed. We prayed for his safety and that he would end up where he was supposed to be without harming himself or anyone else.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of all was, He boldly stated that it is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” But Jesus took it a step further and, though they didn’t ask for it, He told them that the second greatest commandment, above “thou shalt not kill” and “honor thy father and thy mother,” is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 30-31).
It’s harder than you think it is: loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Not “almost as much as,” not “about the same as,” Jesus calls us to love our neighbor EXACTLY as we love ourselves. That’s not easy to do when some crazy drunk guy comes pounding on your door after you’ve gone to bed for the night. The world has evolved into a complicated place. While we were concerned for the Knocker’s welfare, we were also just a little concerned for our safety. The Knocker refused a cab, so short of giving him a ride, Trey did all he could to help point him in the right direction, and he did it without complaint.
Simon Peter, in his first letter to the church in Asia Minor, spells out the second greatest commandment in a different way:
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:7-11, New International Version)
We are imperfect beings. We will never achieve the amazing sinless existence of Christ; our duty as Christians is to try. Try to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, but if we fall short we can certainly “love each other deeply.” The Bible in Basic English phrases it this way: “And most of all, be warm in your love for one another; because in love there is forgiveness for sins without number.”
Love your neighbor, no matter who they may be, because the Love of Christ gives us the strength to forgive any number of sins. Isn’t that what you’d want your neighbor to do for you?
Lord, help us to love our neighbors, however difficult they may be. Give us the strength and hope of the love of Jesus to overcome our own pride and insecurities so that we can spread Your love to all those around us. Amen.