“Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”‘” — Matthew 22:37-39
The holidays fill people with a lot of different emotions: some with happiness, others despair, and a varied mix for many. The holiday season brings a lot of different emotions to the table, with many of us engaging with family and friends at tables where we will share meals and conversation in holiday celebration.
In times past, many could find great joy at the thought of seeing relatives, friends and neighbors fellowshipping together. Unfortunately for some, in today’s political climate and with the state of affairs around the world, we may be fearful of what gathering with other people will bring, from uncomfortable “hot takes” to hostility over past transgressions.
The world has always experienced an array of emotions at mealtime and in fellowship, and it was no different during Jesus’ ministry on earth. He often shared on a variety of issues when physically breaking bread with people, mixing in parables about the nature of God with plain-spoken truths. One of those truths came when Jesus was gathering with others in Matthew 22:37-40, speaking with a group of Pharisees regarding the greatest commands (to love God with all their heart, soul and strength, and then to love people as they love themselves).
I’ve thought a lot about what loving other people means, particularly as we prepare to gather this holiday season. Let me tell you some things loving people isn’t: It isn’t falsely agreeing with someone for the sake of avoiding argument, nor is it starting arguments with others to advocate for your point of view. Loving people isn’t accepting abuse to avoid argument, but it also isn’t allowing our own value to God to be demeaned. Loving people isn’t pretending like everything in every relationship is all right. Instead, it may look like letting the other person know that you still care about them even though you know it’s not.
As you sit down for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner this year — hearing statements or having conversations you’re uncomfortable with; seeing people you may have harsh feelings against — meditate on this statement: There is no one at the table whom Jesus Christ didn’t die for.
When you think of other people in that framework, it is easy to acknowledge their worth in the eyes of a Holy God. When we understand how much we matter to God, and how much we need Him to help us manage our own brokenness, suddenly every person we interact with can be validated for their worth as a beloved child of the Most High God, in spite of where they sit on the political spectrum, or whatever issues that bring angst.
This year at your holiday dinner table, bring Jesus into the conversation often, make peace with family whom you’ve clashed with, and validate the value of each person in the room by sharing how much they matter to God. The gift of loving others as you love yourself — because everyone is of infinite value to the Living God — is sweeter than any piece of pumpkin pie.
— Jon Oglesby
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