Intern Reflection: Carly Shoaf

James 2:1-13

What does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself in your daily life? How does what Jesus say promote mercy over judgement?

A lot of times it looks like just showing up in someone else’s life. Being present through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being able and choosing to be there to laugh and cry with someone? That’s love.  So many times I count myself out because I come up with all these excuses of why I am not good enough to even show up, but presence is so huge in relationships. 

But you know how it starts? By looking someone in the eyes. By acknowledging them as a fellow human being made in the image of God. By telling them with your actions, with your words, and with your presence that they matter. They matter because God created them. They matter to us and they matter to God. 

Bob Goff talks about in his new book, Everybody, Always, which is about loving everybody, always. He reminds us that we don’t need to tell people how to live their lives. That is not love. That’s behavior management. I don’t want to be told what to do with my life. That doesn’t feel loving to me. And that’s not going to feel loving to someone else either. But you know what love is, what it looks like in everyday life? It’s telling people who they are. Who they are just because they are made in the image of our Creator. And who they can be in Christ if they don’t fully know his love yet. 

So this is what loving my neighbor as myself looks like: showing up, being present, and telling people who God says they are and who they are becoming. Sometimes that’s a long-standing relationship. But sometimes it’s just looking the person bagging your groceries in the eyes and asking them how their day is going and meaning it. You can communicate that you care about them because God cares about them in so many ways. It looks like listening to someone else more than speaking about yourself. It looks like showing up in peoples’ lives and loving them where they are, not where they should be. Because how are they ever going to get to the better life God has for them if no one shows up and loves them where they are?

Jesus did this. He showed people mercy instead of judgment. And it worked. Because mercy is love and judgment is not.When Jesus speaks to the rich young ruler who was missing the point, before he responds Mark’s account tells us that he looks and the young man and loves him. He already knows the young man’s response. Jesus knows that he is going to walk away. But He still meets his eyes. And loves him anyway. Then, Jesus addresses the man’s heart issues. But first He met his gaze and he chose love, mercy, over judgment of his heart and his life that manifested from it. 

Jesus did this with the woman at the well. He was tired, but He chose to sit down at that well. And when she came, he purposefully acknowledged her. It was unconventional and for anyone but the Son of God would definitely have been uncomfortable. To not only acknowledge someone His culture/community told Him to hate, but to ask her for a drink of water? Absolutely nuts. He does tell her the truth about her life, but so she can encounter his mercy, not his judgment (like she was shown by everyone else, even in her own community). And then you know what He does that’s so beautiful? He reveals Himself as the Messiah to her. To her. The last person anyone would expect (including His own disciples). He uses her to reach her entire community. She didn’t have much respect, and I doubt many people listened to her or even acknowledged her. But Jesus does. And He so mercifully gives her this moment, to run around town telling everyone that she (she!) has met the Messiah! And you know they respond? They listen to her. They believe her. And they follow her! To meet this Jesus. And then they believe in Him because of her testimony. Whoa. 

Jesus also does this with the woman caught in adultery. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees bring this woman before Jesus. She is indeed guilty, she’s been caught in the act. I cannot imagine the shame and humiliation she was heaped with. But Jesus so cunningly reminds them, reminds us all, that we have no right to judge. We are just as guilty and should be just as ashamed and humiliated for the sin in our hearts and in our lives that is not so blatantly revealed. Jesus doesn’t condemn her-He doesn’t need to. She knows. He shows her the grace and dignity she doesn’t deserve but can have through Him. How can we do the same?

A lot of times that looks like leaving where you are comfortable (whether that’s in a room or your city or just your comfort zone) and seeking out the lost and the lonely, maybe that’s just walking across the room or maybe that’s showing up at their house to help with a need or just to talk (and by that I mean listen). It looks like seeing a need and being willing to help them meet it, with the purpose of speaking the truth about our ultimate need for Jesus and how He can fill all of our emptiness and satisfy all our needs.