Jesus commands us to love God and neighbor at the same time. It would be easier if these two were distinct, separable, and consecutive. It would be easier if we could first love god and then love neighbor, or vice versa. But that is not what Jesus wants us to do. He means for us to keep God and neighbor simultaneously in mind. That is rough. For example, how does one love a drug addict? Keeping our eyes on God, we might see a woman who is blaspheming god’s creation and judge her. God created her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and she is using it as a chemical dump. Do we then punish this woman and – as we do in the United States – imprison her? Or, we might see a man in distress. Do we love him as neighbor, sympathizing with the pain he is using drugs to mask? Do we forgive him his every sin, all the harm he has inflicted on others? Jesus says, “do both!” We are to love both God and neighbor. That means there is no simply either/or – only a complex both/and.This essay seems to intimate that love of God demands the incarceration of drug addicts while love of neighbor demands the provision of treatment. Do you agree?
Homily Service: vol. 41, no. 4 p. 96.
Fritz West is the pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Fountain City, Wisconsin. He is the author of Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-Year Lectionaries, and is the Presiding Member of the Steering Committee of the Association for Reformed & Liturgical Worship.