Betsy Cole, M. Div.
In Eastern Kentucky, there is no shortage of churches that any individual can attend to find their fit in the Kingdom of God here on earth. Like hymns? We have a church for that. Like upbeat contemporary music? We have a church for that. Don’t like music in church at all? We have a church for that. Everywhere you look, there are different churches with different people worshipping in different ways. But on any given Sunday, at almost all of those churches, you can hear a Sunday school lesson or sermon about “Love your neighbor.” Also, just like any good church girl knows, that sermon will remind us that our neighbor isn’t just the person living next door—but everyone. After all, that is the moral of the good Samaritan story.
As a children’s pastor, I have learned that children really don’t know what real love looks like. Sure, many children know what parental love is and even romantic love; however, when it comes to loving others outside their family and friends, children have no idea how that is even possible. Why? Because we, as the adults, have no earthly idea either.
In a society that preaches if someone disagrees with us, they must be wrong, how do we learn to not only find common ground, but LOVE one another? As adults, we learn that we don’t have to agree with everyone in order to work together or even go to church together. We teach our children that not everyone is raised the same way. But at what point do we look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I doing this ‘love my neighbor’ thing right?”
Love doesn’t mean ignoring faults and disagreements. Love doesn’t mean tolerate. Love means love. Love means embrace and care for and encouraged and find the good in. Love means to remind each person we come in contact with that they are a creation of God. Love is to remind ourselves that even if the person is everything we stand against Biblically, politically, emotionally, or physically, God still loves them completely—and we are told to do so also.
Love your neighbor—a simple three-word phrase that carries such responsibility. Yet, it carries such freedom. If we could all see the holy and divine in everyone we meet, remind ourselves that they are not only a creation of God but made is God’s holy image, imagine what we could bring to this world. Imagine the peace and understanding and beauty that would come from sharing what Jesus shared every day here on earth. Imagine if we showed grace and compassion and simply learned to love our neighbor.