Love Your Neighbor Like a Prophet
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and amid a court case that was happening there were a lot of articles and comments about it circulating around. There was one comment that stood out to me particularly through it all: “I hope that he feels wrath from the God of the Old Testament!” Many things came to my mind after reading this. First and foremost: God is God. He is the God of the entire Bible. James 1:17 tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” From the Garden to this very present moment, He has not changed. And He never will.
My next thought has been one I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now. As believers, what is our response to the world when evil and sin rear their persistent presence in our lives? When I began to really think about this, it wasn’t just the thought of what is my outward response, but what, really, is my inward response? I am great at judging, criticizing, and condemning others in my heart. After all, outward reactions are born from the heart. But I realized that all too often I look at people and their baggage as “the other” rather than as “my neighbor” in need of my love and compassion.
In thinking about all of this I decided to seek out what the Bible has to say. I am particularly intrigued by the Old Testament, but more specifically, the Prophets. The prophets write from two types of settings:
- In great sadness for the people of Israel because they were about to experience something that is nothing short of pain, loss, and devastation. They never reigned down judgment with superiority or pride, but with a genuine lament for Israel.
- The great hope for the people of Israel, promising them that this won’t be their life forever, that God has not forgotten or forsaken them, that He will write His law on their hearts and will remember their sins no more, and that only if the heavens above could ever be measured and the earth below ever be explored in its entirety, would God ever reject Israel and its decedents (see, especially, Jeremiah 31). We begin to see the promise of salvation through Jesus and Jesus alone here in this great hope for God’s people.
I give you these examples to suggest that maybe we should take the same approach as the Old Testament prophets. When we see or hear the atrocities that the world will never stop throwing in our faces, shouldn’t we too greatly lament and cry out to God that He is the great redeemer and restorer of this world? Shouldn’t we too be telling people in the face of evil and destruction that a greater and better sacrifice has been made so that we don’t have to strive to save ourselves and others?
When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment from the Law, he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). Our response to this broken and dying world should be the same as Jesus and the Prophets. God’s desire for us is quite simple when you think about it: Stop seeing the “other” and start embracing our neighbor with genuine lament and faithful hope.