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Loving Your Neighbor is More Important than Prayer

Posted on December 31st, 2009

How can this be true? The answer is simple: If I pray and spend large amounts of time and energy meditating on Scripture, fasting, silence, solitude, along with other spiritual disciplines, but do not love my enemies, it is not worth much. I think I am finally connecting the dots that the degree to which I love my enemies really does indicate the measure of my spiritual maturity. I have some growth to do! I attempted to summarize my learnings on this in my sermon last Sunday on Isaiah 58 called “Love Your Enemies, the ‘Saint Makers.”   I began by asking: “Who is your enemy today (someone who drives you crazy, irritates you, you avoid or resent, or simply have a hard time loving)? The following are a few of the themes I continue to meditate on this week as I ask God to help me connect what I so often disconnect: 1. Nothing is more important than learning not to despise others, i.e. harden our hearts against people, deciding they are not worthy of love.  (Note: “despise” is a synonym for “judge.”) 2. The whole of the Christian life can be summarized as the refusal to judge and despise others. 3. A spiritual person hides the faults of others rather than expose them. “Interior freedom is not yet possessed by anyone who cannot close his eyes to the fault of a friend, whether real or apparent” (Maximus the Confessor, theologian 600’s). 4. A person can be so right they are wrong (i.e., if it comes out of a hard, despising heart). 5. Nothing is more important than learning that your enemy is a ‘saint-maker.’ The place to get connected to God is with your “enemy.” They are not interruptions but gifts sent from Him. 6. The more we draw close to God in love, the more we are united to our neighbor in love. Our solitude with God is meant to connect us to people, not separate us from them (Dorotheus of Gaza, 6th century).  The place to get connected to your “enemy” is with God. Thus we so desperately need silence and solitude with Him. 7.  When you despise someone, you despise Christ. When you harden your heart to someone, you harden your heart to Christ . As Jesus said, “Whatever you did to the least of them, you did to me” (Matt. 25). And why do  you think it is so easy for us to have such a wide and deep disconnect between our love for God and our love for our enemy?

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Church Culture Revolution: A 6-Part Vision That Deeply Changes Lives