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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 2, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Romans 13:8–14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (NRSV)

It’s unfortunate that the word love is associated with being soft and passive. I can clear the room if I start talking about love with my kids. No one needs to hear about that, they say. I try to convince them that love is hard work, gnarly, infuriating, brave, and takes gargantuan moxie. They roll their eyes and scatter to other parts of the house. We’ve done a real disservice by associating love with being passive and soft.

Yet Jesus and Paul tell us that if we love our neighbors, we have fulfilled the whole law. This was not an oversimplification. So far I’ve been pretty successful at avoiding adultery, theft, and murder. But avoiding those things doesn’t mean the same thing as actively seeking my neighbor’s best outcome. Avoiding those activities seems passive, while loving my neighbor and seeking their best outcome is active. Love is action rather than avoidance.

I wonder if this is the difference between claiming I am not a racist and actively working to be antiracist. It might be easy to avoid racist language and KKK rallies, but it is definitely harder to work on dismantling racist systems. If you only avoid something, you consent to its existence. Working, learning, disrupting, protesting, and voting are all active words. These things aren’t the passive, soft side of loving my neighbor. These are the actions necessary to loving my neighbors who continue to be harmed by racism.

When we put on Jesus as Paul suggests, we have pulled on our work clothes. These aren’t lounging clothes. To do the work of loving our neighbors by dismantling racist systems will require our work. It will be hard, gnarly, infuriating, brave, and will take gargantuan moxie. That sounds exactly like love.

Jesus, I want to actively love my neighbor. When I am lulled into thinking it is soft and passive, break open my heart and show me the work that needs to be done. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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