Just to let you know;  I am still around and have a few thoughts to share. I am sitting down this morning and actually writing out some things that have been rattling around in my brain for some time.  I have been finishing up my first little book and getting it edited and some artwork done on it so that I can get it out in January of 2022.  The first book is so hard to finally lay down and declare it completed when I have so many insecurities and unknown factors still floating around in my head. This is why I have not gotten any of the articles out of my head and onto paper because I have been fully invested in completing this book project.

When Neil and I have traveled into male dominated countries I have been limited as to what I can share in meetings and seminars.  (I have talked of this before.) Many of the men are offended at a woman not remaining silent in the church and are appalled at any woman TEACHING men anything.  I generally sidestep this offense by asking the fellows if I can share my testimony with them.  They are agreeable to my proposal and then I just go ahead and share what is on my heart.  I can’t get away with this ploy more than once, so I have to make sure I get out what I know God wants them to hear in the one session.  In almost every meeting in which I am able to share, I ask them this question: How many of you are walking out the two commandments that Jesus said we are accountable to obey?  Of course they will own up to following the first commandment because there is no way to call them on the legitimacy of their word.  It is when I ask them if they are loving their neighbor as they love themselves that things start going sideways. I will count the 85% affirmative hands being raised and then will add, “and your wives will give testimony of how well you have accomplished this commandment.” Most every hand lowers at that point.  

This has bothered me for quite some time.  If we cannot say we love our brother/neighbor as we love ourselves, God says you cannot claim to love Him.  In fact He says it is impossible to do one without the other.  Why did He make it so hard?  Who can do this thing?  We live in an evil world with ugly people that are mean and uncaring and hurtful.  How can we be expected to love these kinds of people?  So many leaders I have asked this question would generally come up with a lame excuse about what God is “really” saying and brush aside the question without ever “really” answering it. But there has to be an answer that makes sense and is actually doable.  I want so much to look into my Father’s eyes and be able to say, “I love you” legitimately.  I cannot fake this or try and reason it away so that I can feel good about my walk and relationship with the Love of my life.  He has already told us His values and what it takes to be a true child of His. 

Several weeks ago, I was dealing with some ideas that I had first heard voiced by Andy Stanley on his Sunday morning program.  He came upon the subject of “values” and how we judge by our own set of values and traditions/rituals.  As he went onto the main subject he was discussing that morning, I was still stuck on “values.” I suddenly got a God download and realized that this was going to be a game changer in my life.  What I heard has taken a while to digest and take form and become nourishment to my bones. When it is a big shift in your life it is generally good to not miss any of the details. So these are the things I heard said to me through scripture, people and God’s voice.

What we are and how we relate to other people has been programmed into us by the values and traditions we have claimed as our own.  They are the best ones around, or else why would we have taken them on to define ourselves and those around us?  The values we treasure are the ones we use to judge everything else in the world.  If they don’t meet our set of values then they are to be avoided and we cannot be in agreement with anything that they are a part. If we value Christian traditional lifestyles, then there are so many people that we will not make friends with nor ever step into their homes.  If you are thinking I am talking about some weird creatures that are sub-human, you are guessing incorrectly.  I was told during the last election that if I was not a Republican and I did not vote for their candidate that I could not call myself a Christian. This was a value that spread throughout the church in the USA and had us divided against ourselves for quite some time.  This was a value that people were willing to press to the front of their agenda’s and fight to the death to prove how right they were.  Most of us have values of this caliber that are foundational and unmoving.  The thought prevails that “mine is the best and therefore everyone that has the same values as my own can be in my circle of friends and are those neighbors I can love as myself.”

I am pretty sure that is not what God meant when He was talking about our neighbor.  As I was reading Galatians 5:13-15 in the Passion Text I saw that Paul’s plea was for us to love without prejudice or referral to our petty issues as a standard.  Romans 13:8-10 TPT talks about the commandment of loving others, and in this text it equates love to values of yourself that you would want others to give in return.  In other words, to evaluate someone as you yourself would like to be evaluated. (With a respect of their set of values, knowing that they are living the best values that they know.)  That what they are practicing is the traditions and rituals that they hold dear and see as “the best” of all.  I also realize that most of us are looking at others through the window of our past.  If we were abused, neglected or rejected growing up, we will look through this window of pain or disillusionment, and see things colored or distorted in response to these events.  If we had an ideal upbringing with fantastic parents without constant drama, we are still looking at things and people with a distorted view.  Not a bad thing, but from this perspective a person’s evaluation of other’s problems and struggles would be difficult to relate to in their own life.  We value what is familiar to us.  Our reality shapes our evaluations.  

Can we do this?  Can we love our neighbor who is nothing like ourself?  Can we value and love who they are by God’s standard and not your own? If we could accomplish this in our hearts, how would that change our church?  How would it change how we looked at our neighbor and those around the world?  Who could then be considered our neighbor?

I see love and value as being the same.  At least that is what I believe God has been showing me. To look at others in the way that God looks at them.  That each person is a result of their own set of cultural norms, habits, choices, and values.  If I could step up into the roll of a neighbor, and not a judge and jury, then my heart would be sensitive to what the Spirit is showing me.  Being free to see them in the Spirit; to be able to pray for them and the life of their own choosing or as victims of a broken system, would certainly change my evaluating to valuing.  THEN, I would have a much easier time of loving them as I would want others to love and accept myself. Easy? No. Necessary? I believe so.

How long can we convince ourselves out of our obedience?  How long are we going to just laugh and brush aside the idea that we are “working on that commandment” as being enough? Whom do we think we are fooling? This was not a suggestion.  It is a commandment.

I know we can do this.  I know we can fully obey this commandment of loving our neighbor.  I know because He says we can.  And most importantly, we must. Or what is the point of following a God we do not respect enough to follow and value His commandments? 

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