[forthright] The challenge to love

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2012 06:28:52 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

The challenge to love
 by Barry Newton
http://tinyurl.com/c7jrwur

I do not know how Susan rings the church office door
bell. Presumably she holds something in her hand to
depress the white button. To my shame I have forgotten
the name of her skin condition that has deformed her
hands as it has tightened her epidermis into a taunt
surface like a balloon set to explode.

To prevent further complications, she avoids all direct
human contact as well as any object others may have
handled. As might be anticipated, she is not employed.
She is unmarried. She is among the poor of our land.

Susan evokes various reactions from people. Sometimes
she is the recipient of sympathy and pity, while others
may simply pretend she is not there, being unsure of
how to respond. Since she can be demanding and rude at
times, some probably are curt with her. She is among
the poor of our land.

Nearly 2000 years ago as James extolled the principle
of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," he
identified two barricades preventing people from
exemplifying love. The first is prejudice.

Prejudice extinguishes love by fostering a judgmental
attitude with evil motives (James 2:4). Writing
bluntly, James commanded, "do not show prejudice if you
possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ" (James
2:1 NET).

Discrimination prompts us to differentiate how we act
toward others, thereby shutting down the spigot of love
toward some.

Another insidious enemy of love entails extending mere
pleasantries. Having said kind words such as, "Go in
peace, keep warm and eat well," a Christian might feel
vindicated in being a godly loving person.

James rips this polite mask away exposing a worthless
religious corpse. "For just as the body without the
spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead"
(James 2:26 NET).

Even without these two obstacles, the challenge to
genuinely and actively seek the well being of others,
whether they be poor or not, can be challenging. Love
does not empower self-destructive ways, nor does it
always spew gentle affirming words.

In spite of the hurdles, Jesus rose to the challenge of
loving his neighbor and he calls us to follow in his
footsteps.

Whether rich or poor, whether oriental or occidental,
everyone can justifiably sing, "Jesus loves me this I
know" because he acted for our well-being. He gave his
life for us upon the cross.

As Jesus' followers, what do our actions proclaim about
our heart motivations toward everyone who may walk into
our assemblies or live in our communities? To what
degree do we look like those following Jesus?

----
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