Monday, October 12, 2015

Where was the Church?

More than two dozen times in the Bible, we are exhorted to do right by our neighbor. "Do not defraud or rob your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:13) "Do not plot harm against your neighbor..." (Proverbs 3:29) And Matthew 22:39: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

The Bible even defines who our neighbor is in Luke 10: 30-38. Jesus says that we are to go out into the world and do what the Samaritan did: Go out of our way to rescue and take care of our neighbors, even when they dislike us. That's a radical requirement! We are not to limit our loving care to those neighbors with whom we agree or those who have invited us into their homes in friendship; Jesus says that piety is not enough. Serving those we like is not enough.

We are to go out of our way to serve those with whom we have no friendship!

For strangers.

The church of Christ is to be the very hands and feet of God. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit so as to be made "like Christ," who "took on the very  nature of a servant."

Have you ever wondered what that looked like?

I've never thought about it as much as I have this week. This week, in which our community is grieving the deaths of several of its members. Some of these deaths are personal for me, and I am grieving for someone I knew. Others are communal and almost knock me down breathless in their tragedy.

Many deaths here are precipitated by alcohol and/or drug abuse. Some are connected to mental illness. Occasionally, there is the death of a Jicarilla elder, prominent in the community.  The death of young people is not uncommon here. But this week, a young woman took the life of her very young daughter and then herself. That level of tragedy is beyond words. It is known only in the groaning of the Holy Spirit in our weakness to express the loss.

And I wonder...

Where was the church?

Where were we, the body of Christ, in this young woman's despair? Were we, like the priest or Levite, walking on the other side of the road? Were we ignoring her cries of pain? Too 'good' to stoop down and lift her up?

Or were we totally unaware? Blind to her needs, to her anguish?

Where were we when our neighbor was so desperate?

And where will we be for our next neighbor? How can we reach out and lift our neighbor out of distress next time? I have no answer, but I know the only answer is the hope we find in our Lord. He is our help and our shield.

Please pray with me that the church, the very body of Christ, will find ways to "love our neighbor as [ourselves]." (Matthew 22:39)

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