And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV)
Of all of the commandments, which is the most important? For many, this is a familiar passage and one many faithful Christians strive to fulfill. And it is no news flash that the notion of “neighbor” has greatly changed. Not only from the time when the scriptures were written, but also from 20 years ago. As Christians who strive to embody Christ’s teachings, it is crucial to recognize this fully and with intention.
So who is our neighbor and which ones are hard to love? We live in a time when historically taboo cultures and lifestyles are no longer taboo, yet rather they are embraced. It seems everyone is now our neighbor thanks to the internet. It can seem we are all now connected – with everyone! For instance, the once far-flung cultures of tribal Africa or Pacific Rim islands no longer are taboo and strange. We have come to understand them, embrace them, and celebrate their unique richness and contributions to our home, Planet Earth.
However, there is still one culture, one group making up almost 2 billion people that remains taboo to every other culture on earth – the poor. From crafting local legislation in our hometowns to eliminate affordable housing that pushes the poor farther from away from us, to mandating where the homeless can be seen and find a good meal, to churches that ignore the very different and also valuable culture of the poor, expecting the poor to come to them, rather than creating effective outreach programs that understand the poor and not marginalize them more, to the global level of limiting resources in every way: trade, education, electricity, and healthcare – the poor are marginalized and are not treated as our neighbor.
The poor may always be among us but we no longer have arguable barriers that keep us from them other than our own lack understanding, our collective mindsets, and yes, our own love toward them.
Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear what is most important to you. Teach us to love our neighbors. Remove from our hearts and minds any stigma or taboos attached to the culture of poverty and help us translate your message of radical Shalom and love to the poor in our world who suffer.
Shayne Moore is the Founder of Redbud Writers Guild and Editor-in-Chief at The Redbud Post. As an author and writer, her book, Refuse To Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern Day Slavery (IVP), received Resource of the Year, (Outreach, 2014). Her first book,Global Soccer Mom; Changing the World is Easier Than You Think (Zondervan), chronicles her work with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, receiving an endorsement from rock singer Bono. With an MA in Theology and varied interests, Shayne is a freelance writer for nonprofit organizations and is currently in the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.