Love your neighbor
May 20, 2013
by Pastor Tim Wheatley, Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Cokato

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, I have been thinking about how weird it is that I am writing this to all of you. After all, I have only been here a year, and many of you I have not even met. Of those I have met, a large majority I do not know well.

If we don’t know each other, “Hello.” If I have met you, but we don’t really know each other well, “Good to see you again.” Of course, if you are my mother, “thanks for reading the paper, which you got especially to see what I have written – yes, there are more copies you can buy to send to the rest of the family.”

There are about 4,200 people in the towns of Dassel and Cokato, and quite a few more who live on farms and in the rural areas, so even those who have lived here all of their lives may find that there are many people around them that they do not know.

Yet, many of these people who are unknown to us still have a relationship to us. They help make this town and this area the way it is. Their children go to our schools, their patronage supports our businesses, their votes elect our city council, and we are also connected in many small ways. For example, our interactions with the mail clerk will either leave her in a good or bad mood for the next person to encounter some 20 minutes later. How we live our lives has ripple effects, especially in a community like ours.

Jesus Christ, in Matthew 22, is being asked what the greatest commandment is and he responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus’ message is one of peace and love to your neighbor, whether you know them well or if you are just meeting them. Often in scripture, while Jesus travels, he meets new people whom he has never interacted with before and his response to them is primarily one of love. He heals, feeds, and teaches all those who come, even though he has never met them before.

For Christians, we are called to love our neighbors, too, but not just because they are good people (they may be – or, they may not be). We are called to love our neighbors because of who Christ is.

Christ is the same, whether we know someone well or not. We can truly show our love to our neighbor, not because of our relationship to them, but because our relationship to Christ makes us able to show that love to everyone.

This is not an easy task, but it is one that I have witnessed again and again in this community – though city-wide events, the food shelf, shared community services, and Meals on Wheels, for example.

May God bless you as you try to love your neighbors, whether you know them or not.