Who Is My Neighbor?

Who is our neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)

I think Jesus makes it pretty clear that everyone is our neighbor. 

Somewhere in the history of the church of Jesus Christ

(And I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly when and where it happened)

The church lost track of that notion. 

Somewhere along the way

The church became the people

who told women what they could and couldn’t  do in the church—and in life,

who told people who they could and couldn’t love, 

who condemned people who didn’t agree with them to eternal damnation, 

who told people who didn’t look and or act a certain way that they didn’t belong.

Somehow, the church of Jesus Christ morphed into the morality police

Which is really bizarre

Since moralism has no place in the church of Jesus Christ. 

Moralism involves judging your self and others

based on a set of rules that you or someone else has decided are important.

It’s about how good you can be and all too often

About how bad you can make others feel for not being as good as you 

Moralism is downright un-graceful. It is the anti-Gospel. 

Morality is all about being good enough

The Gospel forces us to admit that we can’t be good enough

To try and act like we can is downright blasphemous 

Martin Luther said, “All those who do not at all times trust God and . . . trust in his favor, grace and good-will, but seek his favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep the [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments . . . combined.

In other words 

when we trust more in our ability to earn God’s love more than we trust God’s ability to love us unconditionally 

we are idolizing our own righteousness. 

Our need to police the morality of others may have turned us in to idolators of our own righteousness. Who saw that coming? 

Because who were the people Jesus got crossed up with

not the prostitutes

not the lepers

not the tax collectors

nor the other various and sundry sinners of the day. 

No Jesus’s beef was with the morality police of his day

The Pharisees 

How did the church of Jesus Christ become just like the very people that Jesus argued with in his time on earth? 

We claim to follow the man who’s most famous stories involve:

The prodigal being welcomed home

The outcast rescuing the assaulted traveler

Commanding people who are without sin to go ahead and throw the stone 

And demanding that before you pull the speck out of your brother’s eye, pull the log out of your own

Ours is not a savior who is out to get us for not being good enough. 

Paul tells  the people of Galatia that if anyone preaches them a Gospel that is contrary to what Paul has preached, then a curse be upon them. 

Let’s not curse anybody (that’s never very helpful) 

but look what happens when we start to believe something other than the Gospel of love and grace and redemption

We become a people desperate to be good enough

And ready to shame, bully and force others into trying to be good enough, too. 

And they will never be good enough. 

We will never be good enough, 

but we can simply be enough. 

Christian writer Cara Joyner says that  “We were never commissioned to demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles. We were commissioned to reflect biblical principles in the middle of secular culture, pointing to God’s redemptive story.”

I like that. A life that points others towards God’s redemptive story. 

As Christians, we are called not to condemn people for the way they are living, but to offer them a better way to live. 

Not to judge the path they are on, but to offer them a different path…and to walk in away that makes them want to follow.

To live not as people who feel they have to earn the love and grace of God, but as people who live in grateful response to the love and grace they have already been received because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. That is a very different way of being. 

May we always remember who our neighbor is

May we never fail to love our neighbors

And may our lives point everyone we meet toward God’s redemptive story. 

–Rev. Anne Russ


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