31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 2, 2020
Luke 10:25-29, 36-37
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, our metaphorical and our literal neighbor, the stranger and the person who lives beside us, our Christian and our non-Christian neighbors. Jesus calls us to show mercy, to have mercy, to be humble and patient, compassionate and understanding.
We are called, as Fred Rogers says, to show people that they do not have to be somebody they are not, and at the same time, we are called to encourage them “to choose to be the best of who [they are] at the moment.” And to know that they are liked exactly as they are. (Rogers, Life’s Journeys According to Mr. Rogers: things to remember along the way, pg 35)
This way of Jesus Christ, this way of love, of loving our neighbors and showing them kindness, mercy, understanding, and compassion changes the world, one person at a time.
And oh my goodness, it is exhausting. It can be incredibly exhausting to continuously dig down deep and find your unconditional love, especially when we are feeling fearful, especially when we are faced with another’s hurt or anger, most definitely when we are tired, stressed out and overwhelmed.
The ability to love our neighbor has to come from a deep well of love within us, and all too often, that well runs a little too dry.
So how do we follow Jesus, how do we love our neighbor, especially at those times when we can barely keep from falling ourselves?
We remember “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other;” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). In my study Bible, this passage is sub-titled “The Value of a Friend”, and in The Message translation, it continues saying, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
With a friend you can face the worst. If, when, you fall, a friend will lift you up. They are your emergency contact number and the person you can trust to have your back, just as you have theirs.
Do you have a friend like that? If you do, what a blessing from God. Unfortunately, in this age of individualism, in this age of social media, in this age of being busy, too many of us use the word “friend” for our 378 Facebook friends or our 294 Instagram or Twitter followers.
There are many definitions for the word friend. Facebook friends are friends. The person you work out next to three times a week at the gym and always talk about your lives but never see outside the gym, that person can be a friend. So can the grocery store clerk or waitress you catch up with weekly.
It is important to be connected to others, and to quote my college fraternity’s purpose, we are called to “cultivate acquaintance with many whom I meet, [And] to cherish friendships with but a chosen few.”
To cherish friendships with a chosen few and to study the perfecting of those friendships.
Sometimes, we take on so much in our desire to be a good neighbor, to love all our neighbors, to be faithful to God and the way of Jesus Christ, that we can get stretched pretty thin, and we fall.
I don’t think God wants that. I don’t think that serves God’s purposes at all – for us to be exhausted, lonely, and burnt out. God created us to be in connection. God created us to be in community. God created us for mutuality – and that means cherishing, investing in friendships with but a chosen few, with those few who will always be ready to pick you up, with those few who will have your back and be your first call in the middle of the night, with those few that you know you can face the worst and keep on going.
Who is that friend in your life? Who are those chosen few? And when was the last time you spoke with them? Spent time with them? Enjoyed their company and let the mutuality of your shared laughter, conversation, and support refresh one other?
Jesus calls us to love those neighbors too – our life-long, beside you no matter what friends, because they are the ones who make this life worth living and give us the much needed energy to transform the world with Christ’s love.