Helen, a member of St Clare’s Community asks: What does it means to love our neighbour?
In turning to God and responding to his grace we are called, in love, to love and be loved.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us a lot about love, love is not the emotion it is often diluted to, it is an action and principle we are called to ground all that we do in.
- God drenches us in love. He loves each and every one of us unconditionally exactly as we are; right here, right now, all of our parts no matter who we are or what we are doing. We are worthy; we are enough; we are loved.
- Jesus shows us how to love; he embraces and loves all people exactly as they are. He lifts up those perceived as lowly in our society, and challenges the human made structures and systems that disrupt love for God and all people.
- And the Holy Spirit is within us, guiding us in love.
To love ourselves and our neighbour is a part of what it is to love God.
Our neighbour is each and every human being on this earth. We cannot possibly know them all, but they are all God’s beautiful children; we are called to act in love for them all.
Our own walk with God and journey through our faith is an extremely personal and individual experience. He knows us each by name and the number of hairs on our head. However, our actions need to have a corporate focus; to be to the benefit of the kingdom of God as a whole and not to the exclusion or oppression of any of our neighbours.
“Love is the greatest of all compasses”
Love is the greatest of all compasses. When considering any action or inaction think about whether it is borne of love for ourselves and for our neighbours. If it is self-seeking, or deprives or oppresses us or any of our neighbours it is not an act of love. By deprives, I don’t mean of riches or power, but of love, acceptance, sustenance, and opportunity to live out our gifting. To harm anyone is to harm God, the kingdom of God, and in that also ourselves.
Sometimes in our neighbour we see the face of our enemy. Our challenge is to look again and see the face of God and the wholeness of who they are. To create a space where we can encounter each other’s humanity and the divine light that dwells in each of us. Often that will take time and that is okay.
Other times we see our family and friends acting in ways that harm other neighbours, and sometimes we will need to dig deep and with love have the difficult conversation. To guide them to see how their actions harm others and themselves. This will not always work, that is okay, and a seed may have been sown. And just as important, may we also stay receptive to those who reach out to us to have that difficult conversation about the harm that we are causing.
It is also important to remember, whilst love is not easily angered, sometimes, in order to protect, it needs to be drawn into action fuelled by that anger. We see this as Jesus clears the traders in the temple. He does not harm them but he does tear down their profiteering. They were charging for access to God’s grace which denied it to those without monetary wealth. God’s grace is free to all and any attempt to capitalise on it, or restrict or deny access is not to act in love for God or your neighbour and should be torn down.
In all of this it is important for us to remember to ensure our own cup doesn’t run dry – that we take time to replenish it with the love of God, love of our neighbour, and love from ourselves. That we honour those short and long term cycles of rest and action that we need to restore ourselves.
We cannot be everything to everyone and no one human can do this alone, this is the work of the body of Christ and of God himself.
In conclusion, my prayer is for us all is that we may be… in a place where the beautiful diversity of God’s creation is celebrated, each person in their own gifting to the worship of God, in an environment where each person is safe and knows their worth.
Helen Dacombe, August 2020