In the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus agrees with a religious expert that to have eternal life we must love God with our entire being and love our neighbor as ourself. But what exactly does it mean to have eternal life? What if eternal doesn’t necessarily mean a time that doesn’t end (i.e. a life that goes on forever even after death) but instead implies a transcendence of time, a life that is beyond time? What would that mean? For one, it would mean that an eternal life isn’t something that happens after we die, but it can happen right now! Second, the Divine Presence is the only force we know of that can transcend time so to have eternal life is to be in union with the Divine Presence, to live in harmony with the sacred, to speak and act and move in sync with love. If we are created from the Spirit of God as our creation stories tell us, then to find eternal life is to return to what we were created to be: of the Spirit of God, sacred, holy, and loving. To find eternal life is to live an authentic life of pure love.
To be united with the Divine is to live in love, love for God as well as love for ourselves and for our neighbors. But, the religious expert asks Jesus, who is my neighbor? Jesus, being Jesus, doesn’t give a straight-forward answer but responds with the story of the Good Samaritan and then asks who was being a neighbor in that story? Of course, it was the Samaritan who showed compassion. So, is our neighbor, the people we are supposed to love, the ones who show us compassion? If someone is nasty to us does that mean we don’t have to love them because they’re not being a neighbor? Well, Jesus concludes by telling the religious expert to go be like the Samaritan. In other words, it doesn’t matter so much how people act toward us. We love our neighbor by being a good neighbor ourselves – without worrying what we’re going to get out of it!
To love our neighbor is to build relationships, even with those we despise, because that person, no matter what we might think of their politics, or religion, or how they live their lives, is also a child of God created out of God’s loving spirit. When we build relationship with each other, we’re also building relationship with the Divine Presence in our lives. We are drawing ourselves closer to the sacred and moving toward the eternal life, authentic life that God wishes for us. We begin to move in harmony with the Spirit of Love within us and begin to grow into the people God created us to be. How we can be good neighbors in a divided world so that world may be healed, coming closer to the Divine, closer to each other, that we all my find the love we need?
(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, March 5, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)