Christian-Perfection-Sermon-SlideThe greatest commandment, given to us by Jesus Christ himself, comes from Matthew 22:36-39. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Christian living in just a few verses of scripture; love of God and love of neighbor. This is what John Wesley was talking about when he would explain Christian perfection. Nothing but the love of God and love of neighbor in your hearts.

But who is our neighbor?

If we look at Merriam-Webster for our definition, we could be quite short-sighted. The definition listed here is this; “a person who lives next to or near another person.”

This would mean that the definition of loving our neighbor would be geographically limited. I would not need to love the people in the next town.  I certainly would not need to love those who live in another state and especially those who live in England, Pakistan, Africa, or China. According to the dictionary, these are not my neighbors and therefore, would not need to be loved by me, according to God’s word.

But our definition of neighbor is not God’s definition of neighbor. So who is our neighbor, according to God? Jesus showed love to his neighbor many times. He showed love and mercy to the woman at the well, the centurion, Mary Magdalene, widows, those who were homeless, disabled, lost, forgotten by society. All of these were his neighbors.

Now, God calls us to love our neighbor, as ourselves. So now that we have defined who our neighbors are, everybody, how do we love them? Better yet, what gets in the way of loving our neighbors and in effect, keeps us from being better neighbors ourselves?

Colossians 3:8-9 says this; “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.”

Anger, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouths. Put all of these things away, forget that they were ever a part of your life. None of these things should be part of us if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. How could they?

God has called us all here to live in unity with one another, with all of our neighbors; regardless of differences, regardless of age, race, economic status, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Love everyone, pray for everyone. How hard can that be?

Now, this whole love your neighbor thing, really gets put to the test every four years, and usually during summer and early fall. You know what I’m talking about, it’s election year. And with election year comes the ugliness of conversations, of Facebook posts, and an enormous dividing line runs through our friendships. I’m surprised sometimes, how friendships even last around this time of year.

Now, I’m not going to get into who I could possibly be voting for this year, probably because I haven’t made up my mind yet. But the anger, malice, slander, and obscene talk is over the top. Wait, we just heard this in Colossians 3:8. Now don’t even get me started on verse 9, “Do not lie to one another…”

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a visual image of what this passage is telling us to stay away from. And I believe this all starts at the top.

But you see, all of these things that we are talking about today get into the cracks and crevices of our lives and separates us. Divisions begin to form and it becomes all to easy to jump on the bandwagon and join in. Join in the anger, slander, and obscene talk. But this is not God’s plan for us, it is not his will for us, it is not his desire for us. God’s desire is not division, but unity.

I am not naïve, I don’t think that any or all of the presidential candidates will get together and start singing Kum Ba Yah. It’s not going to happen, but I do believe that we can change our ways, that we can live the way God intended us to, that we can have nothing but the love of God and the love of neighbor in our hearts.

As the election approaches, I would like to remind you of a quote from John Wesley as found in his journal from October 6, 1774. “I met those from our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.” Live in unity with each other.