Monday, February 11, 2008

Essential #1: Love...oh, and bring along some Compassion

" And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1Corinthians 13:13

As I kick off this series of essentials and good-to-haves in my pantry of the soul, I must start with an essential Christ refers to as "the most important one" in Mark 12:29. There is a lesson in here I can frequently overlook and need to focus on retrieving for my pantry. I'm sure many of you have referred to this verse over and again and could quote it. I promise I am not repeating cliches...please read to the end for the challenge. In the NIV it reads:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord in one.

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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Now the first commandment, regarding loving the Lord, seems so easy to me at times. I don't mean in effect that it is easy to die to self and seek to put Him first at all times, but He, the Lord of my salvation, has my best interests at heart. He desires that I become more and more like Him.

On the other hand...loving my neighbor as myself...well, this is where I can really struggle at times. I know we have all heard it before, and experienced it ourselves, how easy it is to love those who love you back. How easy it is to smile at someone when they are smiling at you, and greet them respectfully, and truly want to do something special for them. With these neighbors, I have no trouble whatsoever. A few other neighbors, the unbathed, the unkempt, the overly raucous at times...even they seem to be easy to reach out to in love. For these neighbors are often overlooked and people step aside when they see them. I easily desire to help meet their needs in love.

The neighbors I have trouble loving, are those who seem really put together, yet really rub people the wrong way. Their tongue is full of arrows and their demeanor is staunch and unloving. They have no need of any material item, yet the need in their heart is great. No one would think twice of me passing them by without a word, but is that what the Lord has called us to? They are still a neighbor, right? Well then, they are not excluded in this command. I think with these type of neighbors it would be as asset to arm your pantry stash of Love with one of the good-to-haves: Compassion. Look into your own, my own, life and realize how many times the Lord reached out to you and you didn't respond. Does this person not derserve the same? Reach out in love: with a smile, a kind word, a special gesture of kindness, spurn the arrows and continue on. Over time, even if you don't see it on the outside, I'm sure you will have made a difference, through the love of Christ, in your neighbor.

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