Jesus says in Matthew 22: 37-40
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
This scripture passage sure got me thinking. Especially after hearing about a saint (not St. Francis) that overcomes his fear of lepers and devotes the remainder of his life to serving them. Although I see this act of charity commendable, I don’t think it is precisely the kind of love Jesus was referring to. My reasoning is this, when we see people who are less fortunate than ourselves it is much easier to love them. If we choose to deny them, I refer you to this scripture from James 2:14-17
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
The challenge I pose to you today following this scripture is this, “can you love the neighbor who knows exactly what to say to get under your skin?” You know who I’m talking about, the person in your circle of friends or in your family where every time you’re around that person you feel friction. You may even feel friction upon their name being mentioned. They know just how to provoke you or push your buttons. They may insult you, provoke you, consistently want something from you or just call you out on everything you try to do or say. Can you love them with the same compassion as you would the leper?
That my friend is “the challenge” and it is not easy. I call these people our sandpaper people, because it hurts to be close to them, but they smooth our interior rough spots so we can slide easier into heaven. (If you click on this word “SANDPAPER PEOPLE” you will find my blog where I expand more on them.) I bring this up, because the Holidays are quickly approaching, and you are bound to be around at least one love challenge and we don’t want to resort to such tactics like this,
I once heard that if the generous act you do does not put you out in some way then it isn’t a true act of charity for it only solidifies the scripture in James. I can recall most vividly a time when I experienced this to be true. Periodically I would have prayer meetings at my house and this one particular time two of my neighbors came. Both women were very involved in the church; one was in her early 70’s and lived one block to my left. The other was in her upper 70’s and lived one block to my right. The older one had just suffered some serious health issues, was frail and needed help up my stairs. We had a great gathering, praying, singing and sharing our faith together. When the meeting was over, I noticed the two ladies were leaving at the same time. When I saw the one struggling to get down the stairs, I had asked the other to please help her and would she walk her to her home to be sure she arrived safely. Her response totally floored me and enraged me when she responded, “NO! She is going that way, and she pointed to her right and I am going that way and she pointed to her left. I was so stunned I could not believe what I was hearing. For crying out loud, we just got done praying and praising Jesus, is this what He would do?
For many of you that know me you know that I challenged her to change her mind. She chose not to and for that I will never forget this lesson. If you aren’t being stretched or inconvenienced in some way with your charity, you need to check your motives and why you are doing what you are doing. True love is sacrificing if you don’t believe me just look at the cross.