A few weeks ago I wrote a 5 part study on the parable of the Samaritan. Following that in a related post we looked at the idea of what it might mean to love our enemies. In a way this all points toward the idea of loving our neighbor.
Jesus uses the parable of the Samaritan in response to a Jewish lawyer who had asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind. The second follows; that is to love our neighbor. The lawyer then asks who is our neighbor. Jesus uses the parable to make the point that every person, yes even our enemy, is our neighbor.
God loves every person. He created each person in His image. He created them to know Him, to be in relationship with Him, and to represent Him. Now we messed all of this up right away. This is the doctrine of original sin. Because of this we all have sin. Each and every person. Jesus came to die for sinners which means He came for all of us. Each and everyone. Therefore we can say theologically and logically that God loves each person. If we then endeavor to follow Jesus we must repent of our sin, and then love Jesus. Following Jesus means loving what He loves and hating what He hates. If Jesus loves each person, our command then is to do the same.
As I pointed out in the post about loving our enemies this doesn’t mean agreeing with everyone. It doesn’t mean giving in to everyone or going along with what everyone wants. Not at all! Jesus called out lots of people. But the key is that He did it out of love for them not out of hate for them.
This is important because how we view others says more about our own heart than about the other person. If I have hate in my heart, that is not from God. How I judge others matters. This is not to say that I should not judge others. That’s not what Jesus teaches either. In the sermon on the mount Jesus says that I should take the plank out of my own eye before I take the speck out of my brothers. But He doesn’t say not to take the speck out.
This is instead about self righteousness vs. God’s righteousness. The first battle that I have to fight is the one against evil in my own heart. I don’t get to sit in self righteousness over any other person. The biggest battle any of us will ever fight is to keep our own heart right. Then, and only then, can I in a Godly way point out other’s unrighteousness.
Today I want to take this idea even further. I think it has impact on how we view history as a Christian. It raises a very tough question. That is, are we called to love the dead? Here’s what I mean.
Every generation wants to blame the ones before it. This is because it’s easy to do and it sort of gets us off the hook. But this is bad history and even worse theology. And it’s extremely arrogant.
God created the person 500 years ago in His image in the exact same way that He has created me in His image. I’m not created better than him. That person was a sinner. I’m a sinner.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t judge some people as better than others. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t point out the bad, and for that matter the good. It does mean however that I shouldn’t study history in a self righteous way. If we do it keeps us from an honest view of history and people. We can lionize the people that agree with me and demonize those that don’t. We can miss the lessons we should learn from the each of those stories.
It’s uncomfortable to think this way. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were created in God’s image. Slave owners were created in God’s image. Jefferson Davis was created in God’s image. Jeffrey Dahmer was created in God’s image. I could go on. Are we called to love them? Are you uncomfortable yet? I am. Extremely!
It’s too bad the above mentioned people didn’t see every person as created in God’s image. But if we have hate in our hearts as we study or discuss people of the past we risk the same fate. How we view them has impact on how we view people now. All people, whether I like it or not, count as my neighbor. Including the dead.