Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I originally wrote the following blog post in 2011 as a series of reflections on Leviticus while reading through the Bible in a year. I’m re-posting it today because it fits the themes I’ve been writing about in terms of Leviticus and displaced people.


 

neighborWhen I grew up, I spent a lot of time watching Mr. Rogers. I’m not sure why, but there was something about the songs, sweaters, and shoes that just kept me coming back for more. Mr. Rogers loved to ask that simple question day after day for his riveted little television audience: “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

In the Bible, we find the theme of being a neighbor all over the place, even if it is a bit more serious than Mr. Rogers. When Jesus is asked what the most important commandment in all of the Hebrew Bible is, He answers by saying that we are to love God with all of who we are and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). Jesus’ summary statement ties together two commands: love of God and love of neighbor. Like with a coin, they are two sides to the same law of love.

The commandment to love God is fairly easy to grasp. Jesus draws from the celebrated Hebrew shema found in Deuteronomy 6. The shema is an identity marker for the Jewish people, in which they are called to worship and adhere to God alone.

The second half of Jesus’ words, however, comes from the often neglected book of Leviticus. In the midst of instructions about rituals, guidelines about annual ceremonies and festivals, and list upon list of what to eat and not to eat, we find these powerful words: “love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). Leading up to this statement, all sorts of relational situations are mentioned: stealing, lying, partiality in justice for the poor or the wealthy, slandering others, seeking revenge because of a grudge, making life difficult for the blind or deaf, and more.  Into the midst of many real life situations, God is saying that the ideal of loving our neighbor must be worked out in every social arena. It is our response to who God is. How we love others matters to God.

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Rest your branches (a poem)

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Rest your branches on me, my love,
While the wind blows and storm enshrouds.
Lean your limbs upon me when lightning flashes
And teardrop rain falls down.
Let us lean, bend, and sway together
Among the pressed-down pathways
Round our roots.
Leave your mark on me
and let us tend our trunks
in wide-ringed ways,
Stretching high and tall together
In the forest of our years.

The Teacher Sits

Only someone who is silent is listening….Thus, the world reveals itself to the silent listener and only to him; the more silently he listens, the more purely is he able to perceive reality. – Josef Pieper

The Teacher sits
like a child
on the floor
in a room
of adults
standing above him.

He speaks of life
in terms so clear
they largely laugh
or coo in baby talk,
unheard by those standing
within misunderstanding.

This is the way
to wisdom’s womb:
humble oneself
like a little child;
lurk beyond detection
and crawl inside listening Love.

Wide: Changed with People (discussion questions)

Jesus Changes Everything Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Wide: Changed with People,” which is the third part of our series “Jesus Changes Everything” at Eastbrook Church.

  1. Answer one of the following questions:
    • Who do you find it most difficult to love? Why?
    • When have you felt most loved in your life? Why was that?
  1. This week in our series, “Jesus Changes Everything,” we look at various Scripture passages in order to better understand what it means to love people like God. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer and ask God to draw you into His truth and life.
  1. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus summarizes all the commandments of God with the call to love God with all of who we are and our neighbor as ourselves. In 1 John 4:9, the Apostle John tells us that God showed His love among us by sending His Son into the world. What do you think it means to learn about love from Jesus?
  1. Take a moment to read Matthew 4:1-11. Before His public ministry, the devil tests Jesus to accomplish God’s purposes in a manner that was not God’s way. What were the main temptations placed before Jesus? How did He resist these temptations?
  1. In contrast to the devil’s temptation, we want to learn how Jesus actually exhibits God’s love to the world. One way to do this would be to read through one of the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and highlight or write down notes on how you see Jesus relating to people. For the sake of this study, let’s just look at four chapters of the Gospel of John. Read through each of these chapters and identify specific characteristics of Jesus’ love for others:
    • John 3:1-21 – Jesus with Nicodemus, the religious teachers
    • John 4:1-38 – Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well
    • John 5:1-15 – Jesus with the invalid at the Bethesda Pool
    • John 9:1-41 – Jesus with the man born blind and the religious leaders
  1. Stepping back from everything you just read, what do you notice most about Jesus’ love for others?
  1. What is one specific way that you need to grow in love that looks like Jesus’ love for people? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and then take extended time to pray about what you share. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

Wide: Changed with People

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I continued our series “Jesus Changes Everything” this weekend at Eastbrook Church by looking at what it means to have wide love like God. I cannot think of a better way to get at what God’s wide love looks like than to look at Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

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