The Essential Commandment

Last year my husband and I led a Bible Study in our home based called “The Essential Commandment”.  For about a year, we studied these verses:

Matthew 22: 34-40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When it takes almost a year to study a few lines of scriptures, you really think about this a lot, and study it from a lot of different angles.

We studied what the heart is, and how to love God with all your heart.

We studied what the soul is, and how to love God with all your soul.

We studied what it means to love God with all your mind.

And we studied about loving our neighbor as yourself. 

And we answered the questions, “Who is my neighbor?”

Most are familiar with the story of “The Good Samaritan”, even if a Bible has ever been picked up.  If you are not familiar with this story, here it is from Luke 10:

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e]and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 If you look up neighbor in the Greek, the word is πλησίον, which is plésion.  This is the definition:

according to the teaching of Christ, any other man irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet (which idea is clearly brought out in the parable Luke 10:25-37).

It seems pretty clear to me that all are our neighbors, and that we are to show mercy toward our neighbors, and love them as yourself.

So, now that we have this big set up, and understand, as far as I can tell, what Jesus was referring to when He said neighbor, I want to talk about one particular neighbor that Christian’s get a bad reputation for not including in the “love the neighbor as yourself” part.  Homosexuals.

Yesterday Shane Jordan posted an article on his blog called The Great Christian and Homosexual Divide.  A lot of what he shared rang true with me.

I think, on a whole, the reputation American Christians as a collective body in this country has is that they want to distance themselves from homosexuals at any cost, and not support their lifestyle because it is a sin.
Now, I have been a part of the Christian church my whole life, and still am.  And I have had enough conversations with Christians of different denominations to realize that all Christians do not fit into this box.  And don’t want to be painted as part of this wide brush of discrimination.

But that does not change the fact that the overall reputation is still there.  Jordan writes this in his article:

I'm quite familiar with the Christian mentality, as I have spent much of my life in Christian circles. I don't agree with many of the traditional viewpoints that are often taught there, particularly when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. I do understand, however, how the typical Christian thinks, which is why I DON'T understand why so many of them shun homosexuals. Not only do they snub gays in their daily lives, but also within the confines of their church communities.

Most people, Christian and secular alike, would agree that the point of Christianity is, to a great extent, to be Christ-like. For anyone who doesn't know or who hasn't cracked open the Bible or history book for that matter, Jesus Christ was not a hater. In fact, he was by definition of character, the epitome of love. He loved the so-called "unlovely." He hung out with prostitutes, fishermen, tax collectors, thieves. He hung out with people the religious leaders wouldn't.
But that is not the case with many modern Christians. As we all know, Christians hang out in cute little cliques. Good Christians, with Bibles in hand, go to coffee shops together. Sinners go to bars. Christians go to church on Sundays. Homosexuals go to church... on Sundays... whhhhhhaaaa????? At least they used to and they'd like to, but some church-goers don't like that idea too much. Churches are for heterosexual Christians, not sinners and certainly not homosexuals. Amen?

And this is in response to the legislation popping up all over the country, including my state of Idaho, allowing business owners to refuse service to any customer they want to based on their own personal religious belief. If serving a particular customer would violate their religious beliefs, they will be allowed under the law, to refuse service.

So, as a follower of Jesus, I look at what He says about how we treat our neighbor and this doesn’t seem to add up.
And, I look at what He says about the religious leaders of the day, and they are who He got a bit ticked off at, as you can see if you read Matthew 23, where he gives seven woes to the teachers of the law, and the Pharisees.  Not the side I want to be on.

When I look back on my life, and how I responded to the discrimination of people, I hope my actions and attitudes are one of love.  Yes, I mess up.  I won’t always respond in love.  But I hope as I follow Jesus that I respond more and more as He did….sitting and eating with the people others reject…..not shunning them and removing them from my life.
Here is another link I would like to share about a boy who had to write this article anonymously because he attends a Christian Conservative college.  What he writes breaks my heart right here.
 My hope in writing this is to make you think.  If you are a Christian, I want you to think about your response to homosexuality.  If you are not a Christian, I want you to realize that all Christians are not how the media presents us. 
If we all just realize that we are all neighbors, and that our response should be love, that might make a bit of a difference in our world.

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