A Christian is a follower of Christ.
Christians are not limited to one Christian denomination, church body or faith practice. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations and churches throughout the United States and the world. Some are ancient and some begin daily. Each strives to honor and worship Jesus in a variety of ways. In this article I will discuss two key aspect of all Christian faiths: Jesus and love.
Jesus commands Christians to love. Specifically, Jesus states (in the Gospel of Matthew — the first book of the New Testament) that the greatest commandment is to love God with heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). Christians are also commanded to love neighbors (Matthew 22:39); love one another (John 13:34-35); and love enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).
Let’s unpack that a minute. Love God, love neighbor, love one another and love enemies.
Jesus’ command to love God with heart, soul and mind originates with the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NKJV), “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This is a total and devoted love of God. It is powerful and all consuming.
Love your neighbor originates in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” In the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37), Jesus shares the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a question asked by an expert in the law, “And who is my neighbor?”
The parable tells the story of one person after another ignoring the victim of an aggravated robbery left on the road to die. The least likely person, a Samaritan, takes pity on the victim and cares for him. The victim did not reside next to his helper, nor was he of the same religion, nor the same nationality. Yet the helper, a Samaritan and therefore despised by Israelis, stopped and helped him and paid for additional care. As Christians we can hear Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself to include anyone. Think of it.
Love one another originates in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus says this shortly after washing His disciples’ feet and predicting his betrayal. Jesus commands Christians to love one another; He does not command us to have anger, judgement, gossip, or unforgiveness. Jesus is quite clear about each of those as signs contrary to faith. Yet there are those who spend more time talking about than talking to. The commandment ends with this: “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If only!
Love your enemies originates in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This is, perhaps, the commandment with which I most struggle. I find it very difficult to love my enemies and to pray for those who persecute me. In a similar fashion, I struggle with the part of the Lord’s Prayer that connects my forgiveness with my forgiving others. It is not easy to be a Christian.
In this article I have tried to briefly convey Jesus’ commands that we love God, love our neighbor, love one another, and love our enemies. Jesus says that the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. Imagine for just a moment if that’s how Christians were known — as people who love. We live in hard times, many are struggling with fear and anxiety about Coronavirus and Economic uncertainty, and what, besides murder hornets, awaits us in 2020. Let us take time to love. The world, and our neighbors, need love.
Rev. Stephen Reed, pastor, St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall.
Chaplain, Fairbanks Police Department
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith Section on May 15, 2020.
Are you walking by faith or by sight through this storm we call Coronavirus? No, it’s not a judgment. I am not in any place to judge. It is instead a question I am also trying to answer.
The seventh verse of the fifth chapter of Saint Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth (this sounds like a math problem), better known as 2 Corinthians 5:7, states, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
So are you walking by faith or by sight?
I have a confession to make. When I walk, I do so with my eyes open looking all around (for wolves and bears!). So I am walking by sight, not by faith. On the other hand, whenever I leave the house I do so with the faith that everything will be okay and I’ll be able to return sometime later.
When I think of walking by faith alone I am reminded of a scene from “Star Wars: A New Hope” in which Luke Skywalker is on a combat mission to destroy the Death Star (spoiler alert!). Suddenly Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice tells him to “use the Force Luke! Let go! Luke, trust me.” Luke responds by shutting off his targeting computer and related systems and instead uses the Force to successfully carry out his mission.
To be clear, I am not equating the Christian faith with the Star Wars spirituality called the Force. I am simply trying to find an example of acting without seeing. Personally, I am much better at acting, or speaking, without thinking.
When I think of walking by faith and not by sight, I think of farmers and gardeners. Both start out with seeds and soil. Neither have sight to see the finished produce and the time in between of rain and sun. Yet, in the end, plants grow and there is much to celebrate.
As Christians we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ resurrection knowing that the early disciples wept at Jesus’ capture, mock trials, torture and death. On that first Easter Sunday, they did not go to the tomb to celebrate. They went to visit Jesus’ grave. What they found they did not foresee, but before them they saw that He who raised others from the dead was Himself risen.
It is difficult in this time to walk by faith when we see and hear frequent news reports of health and economic distress. It is easy to focus on the “what if questions” that haunt the Internet and news media. It is important, as my best friend put it, to remember that though we cannot vaccinate or otherwise cure Coronavirus, we can treat anxiety, fear, insomnia, and depression.
I believe it is important that we reach out and care for one another. Some are struggling intensely and looking for a way out. Call people and check in with folks. Our circumstances may vary, but we are all in the same storm. It may seem at times like we’ve lost our joy, but Sunday will come and we’ll see our Lord risen again.
God’s blessings be upon you and upon us all. Remember to pray for those on the frontlines of this battle: First responders (law enforcement, fire, ambulance, dispatchers), our nation’s armed forces, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, emergency room technicians and staff, nursing and retirement home staff, grocery store staff, sanitation crews, truckers, postal workers, delivery people and many, many more!
The Rev. Stephen Reed is Pastor of St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and Fairbanks PD Chaplain.
Married 25 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting