I’ve slowly been discovering that I can’t peel my relationship with God apart from my relationship with other people. You’d think this is Christianity 101, right? But somehow I’ve often reduced my faith down to a list of rules or a collection of doctrinal statements that I affirm that do nothing to change how I interact with these other people who are different from me, who believe differently than I do, who irritate and frustrate me, who inconvenience me and cause me pain. Maybe that’s why I’d like to separate the two, to insist that I can truly love God and walk blindly, unfeelingly, past those around me.
Jesus didn’t mince words about what He wanted. Mark 12:28-32, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Somehow in all my reading of the OT law, I hadn’t realized that was the point of all of it, to love others well. Galatians 5:14-15 says, For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Romans 13:8-10 states, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet’, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Jesus actually says that love is what will let other people know that I am His disciple (John 13:35). And it’s completely connected to my love for God. 1 John 5:2 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments.” I’ve been sitting here, mentally, for a while. Do I love those around me like this? The answer is no, but I think awareness is the first step to making changes.
Do I mean big changes? No, I absolutely don’t. Every time I think I need to do big, I don’t. I need to do all the small things that present themselves and stop waiting for the big moment. That’s where the awareness kicks in. If I’m aware that I don’t love my neighbor as I should, I’m evaluating how I’m treating my neighbor, whoever that is, every single time we’re interacting. I’m measuring how much I’m holing up with my people instead of making space for all people. I can start noticing how I distance myself from those who inconvenience me or make me feel uncomfortable instead of reaching out. But I have to start with awareness.
I have to be aware that something is desperately wrong with the world. Of course, I know what it is. It’s sin. There’s an enemy who wants to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). In Genesis 6, God was grieved that He had made man; the text goes on to say that there was violence and corruption everywhere. This is in opposition to what God wants. Psalm 97:2b says, “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” ( This isn’t deep theology, but I like to think of “righteousness as “doing right” and “justice” as “putting things right.” That helps me break it down quickly in my own life. “Righteousness” is doing right myself and “justice” is doing right by others, fixing things when they aren’t right.) How often do I do injustice? How often do I see injustice being done to others and I turn my back? Or I say it shouldn’t matter? Or I think they should just get over it?
Is the call not on me to do justice (Micah 6:8)? Does God not call me to leave all the things that I think make me religious and spiritual and actually go change something for someone? Isaiah 58:6-7 says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Can it get any clearer than that? And is anything harder to do? I have to disrupt my quiet life. I have to accept inconvenience and pain and other people’s problems. I have to acknowledge that I can’t fix the hurt, that often I add to it instead. I have to give up space and bowls of soup and time scrolling through the internet. I have to quit being absorbed into myself and open myself up to the interruptions of need. Not to fill up the empty but to the point them to the One who can, to the One who also fills me.
Do I know what this looks like? No, not really. I just know I’m going to try to keep my eyes open. I’m going to try to notice the people around me and then make space for them and let them make space for me as well.