Guest Post – Love your neighbor as yourself

This message comes to us from Dennis Foust, the new Senior Minister of St. John’s Baptist Church, in Charlotte, NC, where I am a member. When I asked him for some help on the biblical side of this discussion, in good Baptist tradition, he let me know that he was more than glad to do so, but he wanted me to understand that he doesn’t presume to speak for our congregation or for any other Christian.  Well, he may not speak for us, but his message is one that certainly speaks to us.

In this biblical directive (Leviticus 19:18), the explicit command is to love your neighbor; the implicit command is to love yourself.  It is quite possible – and highly likely – that in relation to the proposed Amendment One, some people may have confused their explicits with their implicits.

Jewish tradition regards, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” as the Torah’s preeminent command (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). The expression of loving and compassionate behavior is to flow toward every person because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  Christian tradition holds Jesus’ reciting of this commandment in highest esteem (Mark 12:31).

In 1 John 4:7-8, we find this pronouncement: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This passage continues wonderful instruction and then offers in 1 John 4:20-21: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him (Jesus) is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

Some people seem to think their brothers and sisters are limited only to those persons who think (believe, vote) like them. They draw circles that exclude those who are different or whose life situations/practices conflict with their own. They draw limits on their expressions of love which God (who is Love) refuses to draw. They even go so far as to write and support unloving legislation that beats today’s Samaritans and leaves them bleeding. It is possible to encapsulate a lack of compassion in a cloak of religious rhetoric and travel along the road toward the Holy City of self-righteousness.

‘So who are my brothers and sisters,’ you may ask. A fellow asked this same question of Rabbi Jesus one day. And Jesus taught him that his brother or sister (neighbor) was anyone who crossed his path who was being beaten by others. There were more differences between Samaritans and Jews, in the times of Jesus, than there are between North Carolinian heterosexuals, homosexuals and domestic partners today. The only people Jesus ever called “sinner” were those who went around labeling other people, “sinner.”

Before we vote on Amendment One, let us ask, “How will this affect my neighbor?” Or, we may ask, “If I or one of my children were my neighbor as affected by this amendment, how would this affect me/her/him?” If we do not ‘love our neighbors as ourselves,’ we may make it illegal to express God’s explicit and implicit commandments. Let us remember, God is Love!

This entry was posted in The Bible tells me so. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Guest Post – Love your neighbor as yourself

  1. ashley says:

    Thanks to Minister Foust & Straight But Not Narrow for embracing a God who want to love, not be afraid and find the better in ourselves and all people. Keep this BLOG going.

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