What happened to love they neighbor?
In the past few weeks, I've seen more people who claim to be Christians, cite their faith as the basis for their bigotry. Now granted, this is nothing new and this mindset probably isn't going away anytime soon. But I've never understood how people can use the bible as a basis for their hate, when Christianity is supposed to be based on one simple concept: Love.
When we think of the word love what do we think of? A romantic relationship? Friends? Family? God? I personally know and feel love every day. I feel it at home with my beautiful husband and our puppy Cora. I feel it with my best friends, who I call my tribe. I feel it every Sunday when I'm at church. I feel it when I’m by myself and just alone with God. But a lot of people who claim to be Christians, and dare I say the church as a whole, has somehow forgotten the second greatest commandment that God has asked of us. To love your neighbor as you would love yourself.
We grow up always learning the golden rule which to me was just a version of the commandment Jesus spoke in Matthew 22: 34-40. And for those who don't subscribe to the words of the Bible it simply says: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. It seems simple enough right? If you love yourself you should be capable of loving others. However I’ve learned that hurt people, HURT PEOPLE. So if there is no self love it’s almost impossible for someone to extend their heart to us.
It has been a common practice in church communities to shun others who they believe aren’t living a life that is pleasing to God. Emphasis on the word, THEY. But how is shunning someone, and judging them part of loving thy neighbor as you love yourself? Unless, you are suffering from a lack of self love. You see when we are afraid to deal with our own inner demons we find ways to project those feelings onto others. People with body image issues comment on foods their friends eat, comment on their instagram pictures or social media posts. People with financial issues might tell someone that something is too expensive for them, and people who aren’t comfortable in their own skin very easily and too often tell others that it's not okay to be comfortable in the skin that THEY are in. Not only does this stem from a lack of self love, but it also stems from an envious nature. Those who ridicule others might be envious that that person is simply living in their truth. They are envious that they are truly living as the person God made them.
You see we as Christians must decide what it is we believe. Are we made perfect in God’s image or not? Because in saying that we must fully accept others that are not like us. On one side of the coin God made us in his image, but on the other side of the coin who we are is not okay. Another common practice in Christianity today is to lean heavily on what I believe is an antiquated book (that although has many beautiful verses and passages that are applicable today, can just as easily be used as a weapon to hurt others.)
So let’s pretend for a moment that the Bible didn’t exist (blasphemy, I know!) and all we had to follow were the 10 commandments of God and the commandments that Jesus spoke. How much simpler of a life would that be. Don’t kill, don’t cheat, don’t steal. Honor your parents, don’t use the Lords name in vain. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, Love God with everything you have, put no other Gods before him and love thy neighbor as you love yourself. Think about that for a minute. We’re always truncating the Bible to fit our particular situation anyway. So if this was all we had to go on, what would the world be like? What would Christianity today be like? Would more people choose to believe? Would less people choose to judge? Would more people accept? Would less people choose to hate? Would more people be willing to subscribe to what we call “organized religion” knowing that who they are is fully and completely accepted?
I of course don’t have answers to any of these questions but I do know in my own life. I love myself. I of course have my moments of self doubt because I'm human, but because I love myself I am able to extend my heart to others. I am able to fully accept who they are because I believe God DID make them perfect in his image. That's what I choose to believe.
To tell someone that who they are is not of God, is to act as if we fully understand God and what he does. And if there’s one thing I do know it’s that God is unpredictable and he does not exist for us to understand him fully. Because if we did, he would not be worthy of our praise. To tell someone that who they are is not of God is to honestly insult God, because didn’t he create everything? The one thing about God that I do understand, is that he doesn’t make mistakes. He has a reason for everything. Every single person on this earth exists for a reason. But none of those reasons include any person, group, community or church denomination denying them the opportunity to live in their truth. Just as God has made me a strong independent black woman, God has made people members of the LGBTQ community. God has made people advocates for change. God has made people, Black, White, Latin, Asian, Male, Female, Non-Binary. God made us all.
So although it shouldn’t be a challenge, I want to challenge you to something today. No matter where you stand on any issues that the country is facing today: be it immigration, the black lives matter movement, abortion rights or the church's stance on homosexuality. I simply challenge you to do this. Start with loving yourself. Mind your OWN business. Tend to your own garden and allow your own fruit to grow. And once you have extended that grace, and mercy and love to yourself, follow the 2nd greatest commandment that Jesus himself asked of us, and love your neighbor, just as you have learned to love yourself.