Love your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.--Matthew 22: 37-39
Love God. Love my neighbor. I get that.
Of course, there's the little matter of who is my neighbor.
Now, I've read the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) and pretty much get it. Love everybody, even people you don't like.
But have you ever thought about how easy it is to love people and how hard it is to love just one person--particularly if it's that one CERTAIN person? Did you ever notice that Jesus never said to love people, like bunches of them? He said to love them one at a time. One at a time.
I think about how easy it is to love a group--
Like old folks, as long as the one I'm with for a whole afternoon doesn't want me to listen to the same story for the 46th time.
Like addicts or alcoholics, as long as the one I'm with doesn't throw up on me or lie to me again and again.
Like babies, as long as the one I'm with doesn't cry all night for a week.
Like the homeless, as long as one of them doesn't move in with me.
Like the hungry, as long as their need doesn't interfere with my Monday morning latte or my Saturday night prime rib.
Like prostitutes, as long as the one I tried to help doesn't just give up and go back to the life after all.
This is why groups are easier--unfortunate and disenfranchised groups keep their distance. We don't get our hands too dirty with their lives and business or, if we do, it doesn't last too long. We can wash up afterward. We can go home and hug our clean kids. We can still enjoy warmth and security.
I don't think that's was Jesus intended.
He didn't say to love a group. He said to love a person.
A teenager who says she hates me.
A husband who is habitually inconsiderate.
A friend who betrayed me.
A cousin who thinks I'm a religious nut.
A neighbor whose dog poops on my lawn.
A parent who beat me.
The people we're stuck with. The people God, with intention, gave us to love. One at a time.
We aren't to get too proud of ourselves, I think, for the good deeds we do. The church work. The soup kitchens. The counseling. The donating.
In the end, those are all pretty easy and we get to go home from them.
Jesus said to love people one at a time, wherever we are, whomever He gives us to love. And we don't have to go looking for these, as a rule. That hard-to-like person is already in our life, maybe even in our house. They are the one--not the ones--we are to love.
And in one short phrase, Jesus gave us both the way and the reason to do it:
Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.--Matthew 25:40