Recently, our social and political landscape has witnessed the refugee crisis, the Black Lives Matter campaign, Brexit, and various protests in the wake of the inauguration of Donald Trump. In all of these social and political events, there is a common factor: individuals on the periphery of society are being treated harshly because of differences in skin colour, religion, culture or gender. Who would have thought that in the 21st century (a time of advancement in knowledge and technology) the concept of ‘us and them’ would still be intact?
As humans, it’s easy to empathise with those who look similar to us, share the same faith and language, or experiences. Sometimes, the act of love comes with reservations and nothing, not even the horrific images of persecution or injustice, has an active impact on who and how we love. Evidently, this world is not perfect. But Jesus sets the standard of who to love; His vision of love is inclusive. In the book of Matthew, Jesus states that ‘the great and first commandment’ is to love God (Matthew 23:37-38). He follows this with a call to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Verse 39). When we encounter God’s love, we get a glimpse of what real love looks like. Through the knowledge of God’s affection for us and our love for Him, we begin to gradually see others through a God-like mirror. Loving those around us, and not just our actual neighbour, might not be instinctual. Yet, Jesus transcends occupational differences, the stigma towards outcasts and racial barriers and loves unreservedly, and His is an example of love and compassion in its purest form with no boundaries. He challenges us to do the same.
Of course, Jesus is God, so loving the sick, the poor and the outsider is second nature. But what about us? How can we love that person who speaks a different language or lives a different lifestyle to us? During His time on earth, Jesus showed anyone how to love. He healed the man with leprosy, an individual who no one would dare approach (Luke 1:40-45); and He spoke with a Samaritan woman about ‘living water’ (God), going against enmity between Samaritans and Jews (John 4:7-26). Jesus even had a great feast with tax collectors and those looked down upon by the society of the time (Luke 5:27-32). His response to those who asked why He spends time with such people was this: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’ (Luke 5). These days, following in the footsteps of Jesus may look something like spending time getting to know people who don’t usually hang out in our circle, showing compassion to the poor and vulnerable, saying a kind word, volunteering at a charity or simply taking a moment to immerse yourself in a different culture. These are a few of the many simple options out there.
I know that it may seem daunting to imitate Jesus. But He fills us with strength, wisdom and guidance to be His hands and feet in this world. I pray that He opens yours eyes to those who are in need. I pray for many opportunities to show Jesus’ love to people in regardless of who they are, their situation or where they come from. Amen.
By Chermaine Sowah