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Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs Headshot

If We Don't Love Our Neighbors, Then We Don't Love Ourselves

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I don't usually comment on the negative comments that others make about what happens in our society. However, I am having a very hard time keeping my fingers from writing about the comments that have been made about God and what happened in Newtown, Conn.

First, for anyone to claim that they "know" why something tragic happens, and "know why God let this happen," is ridiculous. We can't begin to "know" what God is thinking or doing or why. We can surmise, we can guess, we can use our own prejudices to try sway others to believe why something happened or not, but we really don't "know" the mind of God.

Second, some people have said that the reason this happened in a school is because God is not "allowed" in our public schools. Saying the "pledge of allegiance" or praying at the beginning of the school day or having stone copies of the Ten Commandments displayed in our city buildings does not make one more or less "religious" or more or less believe in or worship God or act any differently than they already do. Many people who may be in church on Sunday forget God when they walk into work on Monday. So, having reminders around or having to recite the same prayer day after day, does not mean that one will automatically remember that they are one of God's creations and therefore, are to keep that in mind in all that we say and do.

By the way, if you haven't been in a school recently and have not "seen" God at work there, then you are looking through a "glass dimly" because the teachers, the administrators, and those who work to provide food and a clean and safe place for our children to learn, are, I believe, God's hands at work in our schools.

For example, recently, I was the facilitator for a memorial service held for a young person who had been a student at a school in New York City and had died from cancer at the age of 16. The preparations for this memorial service were taken care of by his teachers and the administrators of the school. His parents were so deeply touched that the school had taken their request for a remembrance of their son at this school and turned it into a beautiful event honoring their son. From working on this with them, it was clear to me that God was working through these teachers and administrators to help other students and their parents and their fellow teachers grieve the loss of this promising young man and celebrate his life. This is God at work in our schools.

Third, to say that this happened in Connecticut because of gay marriage or because people accept people as they are and for who they are, is preposterous. For those of us who are Christian, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor" -- not some of your neighbors but ALL of your neighbors. He didn't say, except for the gays, or the lesbians, or the transgendered or those who are different from you. Jesus said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we don't love our neighbor, then we don't love ourselves. They go hand in hand -- if you don't love one who is other than you, then you also don't love yourself.

One of the people who was very instrumental in my life once said to me that when we die and we have to answer to God for our actions during our lifetime, he believes that we will have much more to answer for in terms of how we have treated others than what we think of as the "sins" for which we will need to seek forgiveness. What did we do when we saw someone imprisoned and didn't visit them? What did we do when we saw someone being evicted from their home? What did we do when we saw someone by the side of the road and in need of help? What did we do when we didn't try to understand and help those who have mental illness? What did we do when we saw someone being bullied or assaulted? What did we do when we saw someone who was hungry and in need of food? What did we do when we saw someone sick and didn't try to help them? These questions, and others that are related to our neighbors, are the ones that, I too believe, we will need to answer. And, in keeping with loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, we will also have to answer why we tried to make anyone who God loves the same as God loves us, feel less than.