Commanded to Love: Our Neighbors As Ourselves

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 12:31 and James 2:1-8

Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

When I was growing up my family would attend a department picnic hosted by one of my mother’s coworkers at her home around the Fourth of July. Her home was on a lake and many party attendees would bring boats or jet skis to enjoy the day on the water. After lunch the jet ski pilots would offer rides on the lake to the little tykes…and my eight-year-old self was raring to go! Personal flotation device fastened and arms secure around the driver, we were off bounding over the lake wake one after the other…until I wasn’t. We hit a certain wake and the jet ski and driver continued on in one direction while I sailed off in another. I hit the water so hard it knocked the wind out of me. Praise the Lord for that PFD – it kept me on the surface. The driver circled back around and coaxed me out of the water and back onto the jet ski. He asked if I wanted another lap around the lake. I asked for my mother on the dock.

An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. That unbalanced force in the case of Sarah and the jet ski ride was that unpredictable wave; it literally threw me off course. That unbalanced force in the case of Christians loving our neighbors as ourselves can be any number of things like pride, laziness, discomfort, prejudice, apathy, refusal, selfishness, or defiance. These unbalanced forces can thwart us from ever loving our neighbors as ourselves or, as was the case with me and the jet ski, can throw us off course midway.

I find that when I am intentional about loving my neighbor – which I best express through actively and consistently serving my neighbor and supporting the church financially so that its mission of serving neighbors locally, nationally and internationally continues – I am less likely to be thrown off course by some unbalanced force. That happening of loving and serving my neighbor becomes a habit. Studies show that habits are learned and developed over time. Once habits are learned and developed they are difficult to modify or change. So why not develop some habits for good? For the good of ourselves? For the good of our God? For the good of our neighbors? For the good of God’s Kingdom?

Consider this week how you are intentionally loving your neighbors. How are you serving them? Reflecting on Newton’s first law of motion missiologists Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch say, “Once momentum is lost, its recovery can be slow and arduous. This betrays a clear and simple principle governing movement and inertia. That is, a body in motion tends to stay in motion – and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. We think it no different for the life of a Christian. A life of action, movement, energy, and strive is the best.”*

It’s time to get moving and stay moving. God’s love will and does lead us in service.

Prayer:”Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found; brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound. Forgive we now each other’s faults as we our faults confess; and let us love each other well in Christian holiness. Let strife among us be unknown, let all contention cease; be Christ the glory that we seek, be our his holy peace. Let us recall that in our midst dwells God’s begotten Son; as members of his body joined, we are in him made one.”** Amen.

*The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church, 179-180.

**”Where Charity and Love Prevail,” The United Methodist Church 549.