Loving our neighbors is one of the greatest challenges in both the Old and New Testaments. Our sinful nature and selfishness make us naturally put ourselves first, in direct contradiction to the command of God. Added to this, our contemporary American culture and its infatuation with the supremacy of the self has lessened any cultural emphasis on selflessly helping others in need. Sadly, contemporary American Christianity is following our culture’s emphasis on the infatuation with self and has done little to sound the clarion call to love and serve our neighbors.
Historically, however, this self-centered approach is foreign to a Christ-centered understanding of Christianity (and a conservative approach to Judaism). Writing on Galatians 5.14, Luther says:
No one should think they fully understand this command: “Love your neighbor.” Certainly this command is very short and very easy as far as the words are concerned. But where are the teachers and learners who actually practice this in life? These words, “Serve one another humbly in love,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” are eternal words. No one can think about, urge, and practice them enough.
Tuesday and Wednesday, I had the wonderful opportunity to head to Galveston with several other members of the Texas Air National Guard and help serve lunches at Moody Memorial UMC. The church, together with Lighthouse Charities, has been preparing and serving lunches free of charge to anyone in town since folks were let back on the island after Ike. Though we still have a ‘blue roof’ and much of our fence blown down in the back yard, our lives have largely returned to pre-storm normal. Going to Galveston, however, I was reminded that a great number of people will be feeling the effects of Ike will be felt for many, many months to come. This was my first post-Ike trip to Galveston and the devastation, though expected in my mind, was still shocking. As resiliant as folks on the island are, it will still be a long, long time until life settles into a “new normal.” Until then, as everyday if we will simply look around, there are countless opportunities to love and serve our neighbors…if we will only practice the words we know so well.