Let’s Remember That We Must Love Our Neighbors - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Let’s Remember That We Must Love Our Neighbors

November 3rd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Let’s Remember That We Must Love Our Neighbors

By Rev. Susan Wilmot

Guest Writer

While immigration issues have slipped out of the news cycle somewhat, especially the utterly appalling and inhumane separation of children from their parents, there are still literally hundreds of mostly women and children currently living in stark and squalid conditions just inside the Mexico border waiting for their legal applications for refugee status to be heard. I say “mostly women and children” because many of these families have endured the violent deaths of husbands and fathers in their home countries. Despite the poor living conditions, these families don’t complain; they are filled with gratitude for a safe place to stay and the hope that they may be able to rebuild their shattered lives in a safer place.

A great antidote to our feelings of anger, fear or insecurity is reaching out and caring for others. In fact, if we’re not engaging in outreach ministry both personally and as part of a community of faith, then whatever religious group we claim to belong to, or however often we self-designate as faithful people, we are not part of Christ’s body in this world.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves is not optional. Loving our neighbors regardless of who they are, where they came from, how they worship, their appearance or mother tongue, and so on, is second only to loving God, who is the source of all life and love in the world and in our lives.

God’s preferential care for the poor and needy crosses all human-made boundaries and is an essential and vital artery of life blood flowing throughout the Scriptures, including this brief summary from the letter of James 1:27 (NLT), “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

There’s plenty of opportunity to care for others, including those who’ve lost everything, especially the precious love and support of their earthly husbands and fathers. There’s also a tidal wave of ways that the world sucks us in and teaches us to be selfish and defensive. We can all make ourselves too busy to notice anyone or anything but our own family and our own issues.

We create walls and barriers that give us an excuse to block God’s desire that we be loving and kind to all God’s children, trusting in God’s provision for all our needs. We support protectionist and oppressive systems of power over others so that we can feel safe and secure. Ironically, the latter is a totally false sense of security that actually accentuates our fear of the mythical “other.” It’s a lie that stops us from building relationships. Instead, our fear prompts us to generalize and dehumanize by labeling our neighbors as some kind of threat.

It’s a lie that steals our joy and compassion and stops us celebrating our common humanity and God’s glorious gift of diversity. We’re all beloved of God, and we all share all the same hopes and fears, passions and pain in this one life. But perhaps the biggest lesson we forget is clearly described for us in Psalm 24:1 (NLT) “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

We are merely stewards of God’s good gifts and resources, as well as God’s love, grace and forgiveness. If we take our stewardship seriously, we’re freed from fear and can spend our lives generously in service to the Lord and in giving to our neighbors.

Just by way of example of how God’s love and generosity works in our lives and in the world, this happened to us recently. We were in a local store buying diapers for refugee ministries. The lady in front of us was waiting on a price check for her single item and couldn’t help asking with entirely appropriate incredulity (we’re not that young!) if we had children.

We shared that the diapers were actually for the children of refugees waiting in Mexican shelters for legal passage into the U.S. When she heard what we were doing and what we were part of, her eyes filled with tears and she quietly removed her purse and insisted that we take some money to help do more. This is a modern-day reprise of the story of Jesus blessing five loaves and two fish from Matthew 14:14-21.

The small gift freely given and blessed by the Lord mysteriously multiplies into an abundant gift – enough to satisfy the hunger of more than 5,000 men, women and children – with plenty left over. We couldn’t thank this amazing woman enough for her generosity, which we immediately translated into a huge box of baby wipes to go with the diapers we’d just bought.

God has many gifts in store for us all, in this life and the next. When we live generously there’s always more than enough to share. So let’s remember to reach out to others, and always love our neighbors.

The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is vicar at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church & Preschool, 975 E. Warner Rd., Tempe. Reacher her at rector@stjamestempe.org, 480-345-2686 or stjamestempe.org.