By Grace Barkwell
I trust that we all love our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons,daughters as well as our aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and even our in-laws, but do we love our neighbours?
Do we dance for our neighbour when they have success? Do we mourn for our neighbour when they experience a loss? Who is our neighbour? This question was asked a couple of millennia ago. Do you know the story? A man was walking in a bad area along a rugged road when he was robbed and left at the side of the road nearly dead. A religious leader he had known and thought was his friend saw him and avoided him by deliberately walking on the other side of the road. Likewise, a community leader that he had befriended saw him and did the same thing. The next pedestrian was a man of a lineage that was despised by the victim, conversely he was filled with compassion for the victim and searched for his ancient first aid kit and poured wine on his wounds to disinfect them and then poured his healing oils there, next he bandaged the wounds up so they would not be further damaged.
After this he put the victim on his own beast of burden and took him to an inn for which he paid out of his own pocket (money bag). He instructed the innkeeper to take care of the victim until he returned from his journey (which was most likely a business trip) and he would reimburse him for any further expenses. The storyteller then asked the ones who queried him which one they thought was the victim's neighbour and they replied, "The one who took pity on him and showed him mercy." This was grace; an undeserved sacrificial love. They were told to "Go and do likewise."
As we go through life, it is not always obvious as to where we need to show mercy, grace and love; a love that is patient and kind, is not boastful or proud, selfish or harmful to others, but rather humble and gentle; a love that is happy when the truth is revealed; a love that protects the weak, the vulnerable, the hurting and the bullied; a love that wishes their neighbour well and hopes and prays for their success; a love that continues on through times of sadness as well as times of happiness in all kinds of circumstances; a love that puts the other person ahead of themselves and is often sacrificial. This is pure love. In the ancient Greek the word for this love is "agape".
You may meet someone who will not tell you their circumstances, but maybe just lost a spouse, a relative, a co-worker, their beloved pet, their business, a relationship they cherished. O perhaps they are struggling with an illness that can be seen or is unseen, or slowly recovering from an addiction with which they still feel tortured and are attempting to overcome. Your love and kindness could make a big difference in their life, helping them get through the grief and move on to face life again with greater enthusiasm and joy or encourage them to persevere until they find full victory.
Love one another purely and sacrificially, with humility, so that we can create a community of caring people where everyone feels like they matter.
Grace Barkwell - Facebook / GraceBarkwell