Love your neighbor
September 19, 2011
by Pastor Mark Little, Stockholm Lutheran Church, Cokato

More and more people have some kind of device that uses GPS (global positioning system) to help them find their destination when they go on a trip, visit a new location, or want to find the nearest movie theater, grocery store, or gas station.

A recent radio program suggested that many people may depend on these navigational devices so much that they don’t really pay attention to their surroundings. A robot-like voice says, “In 300 feet, turn left,” and they do so, without noticing their surroundings. As a result, people tend to be poorer drivers, and don’t have much idea where they are – the destination is all-important, not the journey.

We can sometimes become like that in our Christian lives, as well. Our destination of heaven with our Lord for eternity is certainly our greatest hope and joy, but the journey is also important.

We can become so focused on our heavenly reward, or think all that matters is “Jesus and me,” that we end up not thinking very much about the journey, or about all the people around us whom Jesus commands us to love and care for. As a contemporary Christian song says, we can be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”

Jesus said that after “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” God’s second-greatest commandment is for us to “love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.” This doesn’t allow us to be concerned only with our own personal relationship with God and have little time for anyone else.

We certainly need to diligently tend our relationship with God and Jesus. However, to be faithful people of God, Jesus commanded us to also work as diligently to love our neighbor (next door and worldwide). This means working just as hard to make sure our neighbors have what they need, as we work to have what we, ourselves, need. These needs can include hearing the Good News of Jesus, and providing food, clothing, love and care, prayer, shelter, medical care, etc.

This is a tall order. It is hard to love others as much as you love your own self, but God wants His people cared for, and He calls us all to be givers and receivers by His loving command for us all to love extravagantly. That’s how God gets His world cared for.

In our world of amazing technological advancement for some, there is still great suffering: millions of children in our own country, and tens of millions worldwide, suffer for lack of food; child homelessness is up dramatically in the US, abuse and human trafficking abounds in our country and around the world, tens of millions of people are refugees because there is no place of peace in their homeland. There is plenty to do.

Our day-to-day journey with God is important – not just the final destination. Caring for the whole world the way God cares for it is important.

Let us trust that God will bring us to our true home with Him one day. And as we journey, let us be about the work of doing the second-most important thing to the heart of God – loving our neighbors, near and far.