Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — October 29, 2017
. . . As Yourself
“You shall love the Lord your God. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). This is how Jesus summarized his religious tradition, “the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
In recent decades, Christian reflection on that second command, “You shall love your neighbor,” has focused on the phrase “as yourself,” telling us that we need to love ourselves before we can really love our neighbor. I don’t disagree with that, but I also fear that this can easily be understood as agreeing with one of the messages of our culture: that we should love ourselves, period.
I once heard an Old Testament scholar say that the command might be better translated “You shall love your neighbor. He or she is like you.”
Much of the sin or evil in the world is rooted in our belief that we are better than somebody else. Better than a neighbor. Better than someone from another country. Better than someone wrestling with mental illness. Better than a farmer. Better than a Muslim. Better than a single parent. Remembering that the other person is like us may help us to live more faithfully.
I recently heard two stories. At a family reunion, one person refused to be part of the family photo because it included a lesbian couple, one of them a family member. I know of people afraid to visit the big city for fear of crime or immigrants; but some people of color told me of their hesitance to visit the suburbs, because people stared at them as different.
Your neighbor, whoever and wherever he or she is, is like you. If we really lived that, how much richer and more faithful our lives would be!
Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor, Minneapolis, Minnesota