Lutheran Bishop, Norway
ROM 13,8-10: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
For three days we have enjoyed friendship and fellowship with one another in beautiful Barcelona. But being together has also impressed upon our minds and hearts that we live in a time of crisis. This afternoon we come together in prayer to God to find direction for our lives, and Paul greets us and says: “Love your neighbor as yourself!”
There is a beautiful saying in the Old Testament, in the Book of Proverbs: “As face to face in the water, so is one heart to another heart.” (27,19) A wise man commented upon this saying with a question: “Why does it say ‘face to face in the water’ and not ‘in the mirror’?” He also gave his answer: “Because if you want to see your face in the water, you have to bend deep down. Such is also our relationship to one another, we have to bend deep down to discover the heart of the other as well as our own heart!”
It is with this proverb in mind that I this afternoon listen to the admonition of Paul: “Love your neighbor as yourself!” We have heard it before, we know it by heart, and yet, we have to discover it again and again – to bend deep down to discover the heart of a fellow human being, as well as our own heart, and even more than that: the heart of God.
When Moses saw the burning bush in the desert, he was not only given a vision of God in God’s holiness. God bend down to Moses and poured out his heart as he said: “I have seen the misery of my people, I have heard them crying, I know their suffering” (Exod. 3, 7f) It was also his heart that God poured out for us when He sent His Son, as John explains and one translation says: “The Word became man and moved into our neighborhood.” (John 1, 14) I find this not only thought-provoking, but life-challenging: Christ in the everyday life of my neighborhood, my neighbor – the Son of God.
Jesus himself is even more radical. He speaks about himself as the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and the prisoner. He has made himself one with the poor and the suffering in our world. He has done it so that in providing food, drink and clothes for them, showing hospitality or visiting them , we may discover God and share in his grace.
In our prayer this afternoon we therefore lift our cries and the suffering of our world and environment to Him whose heart sees and hears more than we do. And in bending deep down to one another and with acts of gratuitousness we embark on our walk from here to discover the heart of the other and God’s limitless and loving heart for us all. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.