You Don’t Have to Agree with Your Neighbor to Love Him

Last week’s horrific shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise elicited calls for unity from people in both major parties. This was good to see in the midst of tragedy. But not everyone was so gracious. Consider this Tweet from MSNBC’s Joy Reid-

Or this Tweet from George Takei (which he later deleted):

In both instances, the assumption behind these Tweets is that it is ironic that a person would risk her life for someone whose beliefs are different from hers. And apparently thousand of people agree (based on the number of “likes” each Tweet received).

I feel very sorry for these people because their experience has been nothing like mine. Even though I believe that through His death and resurrection that Jesus is the only way to God, I have received many kindnesses in my life from all sorts of people: unbelievers, adherents of Judaism, followers of Muhammad (and probably some Hindus and Buddhists, but I can’t say for sure!). And it never seemed unusual to me that this would be the case.

On social media and through my blogs I have argued for the traditional Christian understanding of sexual ethics and against deviations from it like same-sex marriage, but I have been blessed with wonderful acts of friendship and love from people who believe very strongly that I am wrong. And some of the most touching words of encouragement my wife has received as she battles cancer are from those whose beliefs and lifestyles are radically different from ours. And again, this never shocked me in the least.

If someone tried to do harm to me, it would not seem ironic at all to me that one of my atheist or Muslim or gay friends would intervene to try to save my life. And I would hope the feeling is mutual. Maybe some people (like Joy Reid and George Takei) are so trapped in ideological incubators that they’ve never experienced such love, or given it. That is a shame.

Jesus told what is perhaps His most famous story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The point of the story is that when the Law says “love your neighbor,” what it really means is to love anyone to whom you can be a neighbor, like the Samaritan cared for the total stranger in the story. Jesus made a Samaritan the “hero” of this parable even though elsewhere in the gospels Jesus criticized the Samaritans for some significantly mistaken ideas. He told a Samaritan woman “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). But at the same time, Jesus used a Samaritan in His parable to explain that love, compassion, and kindness should be extended to anyone who is in need – even those whose beliefs may be radically different from yours.

I fear that more and more people (on the right as well as the left) accept the truncated notion of love that Joy Reid and George Takei assume, a view that limits love to the narrow set of people who think just like you do. But for all of my friends who have been gracious to me even in the midst of profound differences, I want you to know that I thank God for you. And I’m going to try even harder to do what Jesus said:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:46-48).

 

2 Comments

  1. You are a gracious, collegial voice of reason in a discourteous, divided, unreasonable society. Thank you, Shane!

  2. Hey man,
    Very encouraging words. I really appreciate your “take” on all peoples kindness regardless of who they are. Maybe someday you can write an article on how vastly different Jesus mind worked compared to ours because he never “categorized” people like we(I) do. One minute he was commanding a conversation in the face of powerful Rabbis who ruined the whole intent of His fathers law….and next minute he’s speaking with a fearful Rabbi at night who doesn’t understand what it means to be born again. He was ever the leader of the humble and open minded crowd. Thanks for pointing this out to us. Keep sharing excellent thoughts like these.

Comments are closed.