Our Lord foresaw those tremendous difficulties for his disciples–including us–in fulfilling the commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” One of them is the question he was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” In Old Testament times it was much easier to distinguish between good and bad. It was always either white or black, clean or unclean. A person or thing could contract ritual “uncleanness” in a variety of ways: by skin diseases, touching something or eating unclean foods (Lev. 11; Deut. 14 ). All those prejudices should be long gone, but oh, no! They are imprinted in our genes!
I remember my first date with my husband when he took me out to eat sushi. He felt like it was the best way to make me an American. When I understood what sushi was, “That’s it!” I decided. “This is my last day. I’ll die from eating raw ‘unclean’ shrimp and fish.” Before I was able to remind myself that, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (Acts 10:16), I was hugging the stool whole night, throwing up and was prepared to die.
Loving our neighbor is a peculiar Commandment, don’t you think? God wants us to love but loving sometimes is not just hard, it can be even unsafe. I wonder if the Lord would change the formula if he moved into our neighborhood.
Life itself is all about choices. People suffer because they make wrong choices, or someone makes wrong choices for them, and it affects us all badly. This is like a chain reaction. One wrong choice and we reap the consequence for years that causes us losing trust and love of many people. Loving God and our neighbor means that we also need to learn to make right choices ourselves first and then help those who can’t distinguish good from bad how to make right choices. As soon as I believed that to eat sushi is safe, I never again threw up eating it. Was I afraid more of the “unclean” food or of “unclean” people? Was I simply afraid of my neighbor? After the fears were gone, I was able to see a bigger picture.
If you want to hear about loving your neighbor and why it is all about choices, come this Sunday to hear another story about love.