Updated: Oct 18, 2019
A core tenet of Christianity is called “The Greatest Commandment.” In it, Jesus commands Christians to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.” He explains everything hangs on this simple, yet profound command. A religious expert then challenges him and asks, “Well, who’s my neighbor?”
Jesus tells a follow-up story that’s now become a pop culture reference entitled “The Good Samaritan.” The story goes that a man is traveling down a road, gets robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and religious man pass him by, but a Samaritan stops and cares for him. Most people assume a Samaritan is someone who stops and does the right thing when others don’t. What everyone misses, however, is that a Samaritan was someone the Jews of antiquity reviled and hated. If we were to recreate the story today, it would be the equivalent of a white Klansman stopping to help an African-American member of Antifa. When Jesus asks “Which proved to be the neighbor?” the religious expert is so appalled he can’t even say the word “Samaritan.” Instead he says, “The one who showed mercy.”
In today’s culture, people believe “I don’t hate my neighbor, therefore I love them,” but that’s missing the point and not love either. The point of the commandment is that Christians are commanded to love and care for the very people they might despise. The same people who take everything they find holy and spit on it. Then Christ commands them to love their enemy the same way they’d want to be loved.
In my life, I know I want to be loved without judgement or condemnation. I want people to put up with my shortcomings. I want people with different beliefs to like me and not lash out because I think differently. I’m willing to bet you want to be loved the same way too.
If someone says something you disagree with — don’t love them — just attack them. After all, it’s all about you according to our new Christian ideals. Most church services reinforce this focus on self. The vast majority of members go to church to be entertained. If the music, sermon, or kids program isn’t to their flavor, they bounce to a place that “feeds them.” To keep numbers and donations coming, the church bends to the will of the congregation. So if the church reinforces a self-focus, then it's easy to judge and attack others because your needs matter most.
When people see other people act in love like Christ that’s not a surprise. What’s a surprise to most people are Christians who — with their mouth praise a supposed loving God — then stab other people with the next words out of their lips. The disconnect between belief and action is so traumatic, the whole thing becomes laughable.
I’m not saying we do this right or we’re the example to follow because we’ve hurt our fair share of people too. There are no perfect organisations out there, let alone perfect people. But we are trying. We're trying to love people even when we blow it. And how you respond after screwing up — however minor — says a lot about the depth of your faith. Do you respond with love, gentleness, and an apology? Or a defensive posture? One shows you understand Christ’s great command, while the other is once more about how you’re perceived and self focused.