When Loving My Neighbor Gets Lost

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S (Scripture): Matthew 25:1 Talking with his disciples, Jesus said: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. 4 But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil.

5 “When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’

7 “Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’

9 “But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut.

11 “Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’

12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore, keep alert, because you don’t know the day or the hour.

O (Observation): Jesus has been talking with the disciples about what the end of time would look like…what the coming of the Kingdom would entail. Much of what he says comes from his experience with the Pharisees. The Pharisees and religious experts have tended to focus on strict adherence to the belief system they created, and lean less on living out their belief system.

Living out the Commandments God gave the world would look and sound a lot like what Jesus did and said. Striving for life aligned with God’s purposes is the point: be doing the work of God…which looks and sounds like Jesus. This is being ready for the groom.

A (Application): How much do we focus on belief over practice in the Church? We need beliefs to guide our practices, but as post-Enlightenment people, a people focused on dualistic thinking (right OR wrong, true OR false), we feel the most important thing will be belief. Why? Because we believe that gets us into heaven. I think (through this parable, Jesus challenges that belief that belief alone is what is needed.)

If we believe in Jesus as Lord, that’s like a switch that automatically means we are going “up” instead of “down.” One problem with this dualistic approach is that my neighbor in need is ignored.

If my faith is solely focused on my own personhood and salvation, then what do I make of my neighbor? Well…that’s complicated.

First, that person needs to subscribe to my understanding of salvation (remember, dualistic mindset and faith.). So I will speak to that person in such a way as to invite them to believe what I believe or be shamed.

Second, loving neighbor looks like this: tell them that the thing they are missing is Jesus, rather than inviting the other to “check out what I believe.”

The way something is said is important. If I tell you what I believe as, “Duh, of course this is the only truth,” then you lose people.

I would propose another tactic: burn your lamps and grab some more oil now. Pray, worship, give, develop healthy friendships, serve your neighbor, read Scripture. Allow your interactions with your neighbors to be filled with grace and mercy. Let that space between you be a place where the Spirit connects you.

If the door opens for that person to invite you to share your own faith story, move into that conversation. If not, then don’t.

But in all things, show love for neighbor.

P (Prayer): Lord, clear the path for us to love and serve our neighbor. Amen.

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