Love thy neighbor

I’ve been thinking about that command a lot lately and I think sometimes people take the neighbor part of it a little too literally.

There are about 7 billion people on this planet and when Jesus told us to love our neighbor I think he had more in mind than we do. A lot of times Christians fail to realize that the words used in the Bible are translated from another language, so we assume that every word was written with the exact definition we usually associate with a certain word. When most of us think of the word “neighbor” we think of someone who lives near by (e.g. our next-door neighbor) but I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.

The pastor at the church I go to gave a better definition of the word “neighbor” and I think this is closer to what Jesus was probably saying: “A neighbor is any person in your circle of influence that has a need.” That essentially means a neighbor is any person in your circle of influence because who doesn’t have a need? And in today’s world if your circle of influence doesn’t spread outside of the street you live in or even the town you live in there’s a problem.

Of course Jesus wants us to love the people who live near us as we love ourselves, but I think he wants us to extend that same love to anyone we are connected to no matter where they are in relation to us.

And this is exactly why I am so passionate about getting to know the people I come in contact with via the internet. Because the misunderstanding of the meaning of “neighbor” is one of the reasons I think a lot of people don’t understand loving the people we meet online – because they don’t live near us – and even though the internet was not around when the Bible was written I think we can still use it to demonstrate a very biblical concept: loving people because they are people.

I’m Not Noble, I’m a Princess

Before I found out that the United States does not, in fact, have a royal family I wanted to be a princess. Little did I know that I would actually one day be one. I wanted the pretty dresses, a palace, and a prince to live happily ever after with like the characters in my favorite Disney movies. I was a young girl so none of this should surprise anyone. And later when I thought it was time for me to cross “princess” off of my potential job list I still thought my story would involve something along those same lines. I always imagined what my life would be like as a “grown up.” I imagined that I would graduate from college and very soon after I would get married and start a family. I’m about to begin my final year of college and many of my friends are either already married or engaged. Some are even in the process of bringing new life into this world. And these things should all be considered blessings from the Lord and therefore celebrated, but I’m not sure these are things I want.

When I mention that finding a husband is not a great priority for me or that I’m not sure I want to get married, I have been met with mostly the same or very similar responses. Oh don’t say that… You’ll change your mind (this one makes absolutely no sense seeing as I said I’m not sure and haven’t actually made a decision)…God will make you into an excellent wife one day and my favorite: Don’t you want to raise a good family for the Lord? No, I don’t, unless He wants me to.

Singleness in the Bible is not referred to as a bad thing. We’re actually told that it is good. “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:8.) And even if we don’t think a life of singleness is for us we are still advised to wait in singleness until it is time for us to love another (see Song of Songs 2:7.) We are constantly confusing what is uncommon with what is bad and we need to stop. Singleness may be uncommon, but it is good.

Now, please don’t read this as me discrediting marriage in any way. The Bible clearly describes marriage in a good light as well. Ephesians 5:33 says “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There are many verses in the Bible that describe marriage as a loving and respectful relationship between a husband and wife and that sounds great. I am really happy that so many of the people in my life have found such great joy in marriage. But I do have a problem with people reading these verses about what a good marriage looks like and making assumptions that marriage is good for everyone, that it’s what “good Christian women” are supposed to do. I don’t believe in doing things just because the world thinks I should. When we come into a relationship with Christ we know He has our best interest at heart and we’re told over and over that His plan for us is the best plan there is and we say we believe that. But if that’s true, if we really believe that God’s plan is the best plan for our lives, than we have to believe that that applies to every aspect of our lives which includes dating, marriage, or lack thereof.

Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is a verse with which many of us are familiar but we don’t actually understand it. I didn’t understand it until very recently, with the help of someone much wiser than myself. I thought this meant that if I was walking with the Lord and I wanted something enough, He would make it happen. That is a common interpretation of this verse, and it is both incorrect and dangerous. I was reading the story of John the Baptist’s Beheading in Mark 6 today (I know this seems unrelated, just go with me) and the king promises his daughter “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” After some conversing with her mother, the girl asks the king for the head of John the Baptist. And the king, remembering his promise, brings her the head on a silver platter. I’m sure you’ll gather from this that the king here is not a good king, but more importantly he is not a good father. Good fathers do not give their daughters everything they want because sometimes daughters ask for things they should not have. Good fathers do not bring their daughters human heads no matter how much they want them. God is both a good king and a good father. He can give me anything I desire and He will, as long as the things I desire are good for my soul. When I delight in the Lord, I am finding life and fulfillment in Him and I want what He wants. My heart is aligned with His. He will give me the desires of my heart because my desires are His desires.

Last night I was talking with some friends about dating and marriage and I mentioned that I’m not sure I even want to get married at all. And I got a response that was much different from the ones above. I was called noble. I’m not going to lie to you. I still sometimes dream about what my wedding day will be like if I ever have one. Heck, I practically have the whole thing planned out. But my dream wedding might not ever happen and that’s okay. More than anything, I want what God wants for me. I am trying to follow the Lord’s path for my life, although I stray all the time. That path doesn’t make me noble, it makes Him noble. When I think about my life, I don’t want to be exalted (Well, let’s be honest. Sometimes I have selfish desires and do want to be exalted); I want my heavenly Father to be exalted.

He wants what is best for me and will lead me on the best path for my life. That might include marriage and it might not. God truly is a good king and a good father. I am His daughter. I’m not noble, I’m just a princess.