Love Your Neighbor

“Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – James 2:8 (NLT)

Last year I met a man named Bandu, who came from India. I met him at the World Council of Churches headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is respected and held in high regard. However, in his home country he is seen as less than human. Why? Because he is a Dalit.

If you are unfamiliar with the Dalits, they are a group numbering millions of people who are born into the lowest caste in India. Unlike “classes” here in the Western world, once born into an Inidan caste you are always from that caste – there’s no moving from caste to caste. Those who are in the lower castes are seen as “untouchables”. Bandu was born into the lowest of the low castes. He is an “untouchable”. My heart breaks to even write those words. It grieves me that one of God’s children — that millions of God’s children — should be declared “untouchable” by their countrymen.

But before we go condemning India, we must realize we tend to do the same thing. Every day we set people aside into “untouchable” categories — groups of people who just don’t matter. The poor, the marginalized, those different from ourselves, those we don’t like, those who live in different countries, those we just want to forget.

God tells us this is not acceptable. His call is clear to us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves”. This doesn’t mean we will like everybody, it doesn’t mean we’ll all get along all the time. What it does mean is that as much as you want to matter to other people, they want to matter too – whether they are sitting in your home, your church, your work or they are sitting in a field in China, a desert in Dafur or a forest in Bolivia.

We all matter to God. No one, not one is an “untouchable” for you, me or anyone else. If we bear the name Christian we are commanded to care. And why should we do less? We are cared about by the greatest of all – can we not dare to love as Jesus loves?

Bringing It Home:
1. What persons or groups of people have you placed in the “untouchables” category in your life? What people would you rather not think about, know about or have anything to do with?

2. After you name these people – ask yourself why? Why are they relegated to this spot in your life?

3. How do you answer Jesus’ call to love them today? How can you love them?

4. Commit yourself today to be aware of how you place people into categories and see ways to love them instead of relegating them to the status of “untouchable.”

O Lord, I admit that I often do not love my neighbor as myself — whether that is my next door neighbor or my neighbor from the other side of the world. I confess that I allow some people to become less than important in my life – I relegate them to a place of indifference and “untouchable”. Lord, open my heart today, open my eyes today to see, to hear and to let each and everyone be seen as you see them – beloved by you. Then call me to treat them as you would – with respect, with dignity, with love. In your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Jane Jebsen, Adult Disicpleship Minister
Joy! Lutheran Church, Gurnee, IL

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