Love Your Neighbor: No Exceptions

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

This quote is widely attributed to James Baldwin, but was, in fact, coined by Robert Jones, Jr. on August 18, 2015 on Twitter.

I’ve seen similar postings, with similar sentiments, by many on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  It sounds profound if you don’t think about it for more than two seconds.

In reality, it is a profoundly dangerous and horrible way of looking at life. It easily justifies the very thing it wishes to prevent: hatred and dehumanization.

The Bible can be summarized with one verse, Matthew 7:12 “do to others as you’d have them do to you,” elsewhere worded as: “love your neighbor as yourself.”  A religious scholar seeking to justify himself asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor.” (Luke 10:25-37) The quote by Robert Jones, Jr. would argue that my neighbor is a person who is kind to me; otherwise, that person is not my neighbor.  But that is not the definition that Jesus gave.  We cannot control how others act toward us, but we can control how we respond to them.  Robert Jones, Jr. apparently thinks we should do to others as they do to us.  Not quite what Jesus had in mind.

Jesus had some words regarding this very human attitude:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48). 

God showed his love for us in that he sent Jesus to die for us while we were still his enemies. (Romans 5:6-11) Jesus forgave the people who were crucifying him (Luke 23:34), and so did the first Christian martyr, Stephen, forgive those lynching him (Acts 7:60).  It is human nature to not love those who are cruel to us.  God asks us to not act according to our human nature.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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