Editor’s Note: Janee Angel serves as a CBF field personnel in Beligum, ministering to the international community alongside her husband, Hary. This piece was originally published on her blog, seasonedwithspice.wordpress.com
I love my neighbor. Did you know that?
I love to talk to her. Sometimes we meet in the park near our children’s schools and spend a few minutes catching up before we pick up our kids.
We pass food back and forth. We have this one Tupperware dish that we claim as “our dish” that transports yummy things from our house of 4 to her house of 5.
She’s taken my daughter, Phoebe, to school when I had an early morning appointment. I’ve walked her kids to school too.
She corrects my Dutch and I practice English with her.
When we each go on vacation, we bring a little gift back for each other.
We talk about cultural differences and how we see the world.
She tells me if I need help with refugees and looking for housing, she will be there. She made several phone calls to look for apartments with me this last week. She brings over extra things like shampoo and juice boxes to hand out to those in need. Her sisters tell me they have a spare room if I need to house anyone with them.
She laughs with me and sees the weight of the world on my shoulders and hugs me when I cry.
Jesus told me to love my neighbor. My neighbor doesn’t make this a hard command to follow.
My neighbor is a Muslim.
She is from Morocco. She is a mother of 3 boys. And she wears of a headscarf too.
We are different.
And yet Jesus said this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt. 22:37-39
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But Isay to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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?” Matt. 5:43-48
And Paul wrote this:
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
In today’s world, some find it scary—dangerous even—to love those who are different. It’s easier to protect ourselves by surrounding ourselves with all things comfortable—the same. And still Jesus, knowing our nature, saw things differently.
He asked us to step out of our comfort zone. He asked us to take a risk and love anyway.
A long time ago someone came to visit me. She saw how my life was so much different than her own and she assumed I was unhappy. I imagine my life scared her more than she wanted to admit. She tried to persuade me to return to America by saying “God just wants you to be happy.” Really?
My joy comes from serving the Lord. My joy comes from being like Jesus. Happy comes and goes, but my joy roots deep.
What made her most uncomfortable with my life was the deep-down question that made her wonder if God could call her to a similar life? If she could make my life look like hers then that question would disappear: What if God wants more of me?
As nice as words like “comfortable” and “happy” make us feel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best: there is a cost to discipleship. There is a personal price to being like Jesus.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
So Jesus asked me to love my neighbor (literally and figuratively) and asked me to deny myself, allow space in me for His will, not mine.
Is any of it easy? Absolutely not!
But God didn’t call us to words like easy, comfortable, safe and risk-free. God called us to follow Christ, step by step into the unknown. God called us to words like risky, costly, pricey, impossible and adventurous, miraculous, life-changing, eternally-rewarding.
Seems like loving my neighbor is just the beginning.