As an African American Pastor of a predominantly white congregation, I have to admit this week has been a difficult one for me. How much of what we saw this week, especially in Tulsa, occurred because people were not living out those two greatest commandments identified by Jesus?
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment … He didn’t come up with a new one. Instead He quoted from the ancient Hebrew text, Deuteronomy 6:5, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Jesus went on to emphasize that there is a second commandment that is just as equally important; quoting this time from the ancient Hebrew text, Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I wish Jesus had quoted the whole verse as the first part of that verse says “Do not see revenge or bear a grudge against your fellow Israelite (your neighbor).” While Jesus went on to make this very point in so many ways throughout the gospels, it seems that many of our Christian brothers and sisters just “ain’t” understanding the concept of “loving your neighbor as yourself.”
We walk by many of our neighbors every day, looking suspiciously at them as “others,” or perhaps not even noticing them at all. So when someone is considered an “other” like Terence Crutcher in Tulsa this week, who called 911 for help with a stalled car on a rural highway, is showing with his hands up and yet tasered and gunned down by those sworn to help; or people turning to violence as a means of protest in Charlotte, it reminds me that in our country too many of us are not “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As a Christian pastor, I’m obsessed with these two great commandments, “Love God and love your neighbors as yourself,” because these two commandments lived out in the daily living of our lives is the solution to most of the ills in our society.
Join us for worship this week at Covenant. In the assigned gospel text from “Luke 16:19-31” of Lazarus and the rich man, the scriptures presents another example what happens when we fail to follow Jesus’ commandment in “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” My sermon is “Remembering Our Neighbors” although I almost titled it “Neighbors Who Never Met.”