Sep 29 2010

Loving Neighbors Across Time

UP HNF Irwin Pond 539When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  He went on to say “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 30-31)  Today I want to focus on the second commandment which is, in essence, the flip side of the first.

As Christians we are called to love our neighbor.  Most people know this.  But just who should we consider our neighbor?   I’ve heard lots of different answers to this over the years and almost all of them have had to do with people living in the present.  Almost twenty years ago I came across a book that helped me understand Jesus’ commandment in a whole new light.  That book was Robert Parham’s Loving Neighbors Across Time: A Guide to Protecting the Earth.  In this book Parham claims “the looming environmental crisis demands that we revisit the governing principle of love for neighbor, expanding it from a purely spatial perspective.  We must think about love for neighbor in terms of time.”  He insists that “we must see those who live in the year 2050 as our neighbors, as real neighbors.  Our unseen great-grandchildren and those of others are as much our neighbors as our present family members and the family living next door.”  When you think of it this way it soon becomes clear that “the only way we can love our neighbor across time is to leave them a decent place to live.” 

In the conclusion to one chapter he says, “Global warming, ozone-layer depletion, and multiple forms of pollution are three massive earth threats.  They assault human life everywhere and jeopardize our entire ecosystem.  However, their impact on today’s world is probably far less adverse than it will be on future generations.”  Parham believes the time to act is now and that “we must view present-day reforms and initiatives as an insurance policy for the future.”

I realize that the concept of loving neighbors across time will be new to many but it makes perfect sense.  If we are going to fulfill what Jesus called “the greatest commandment” then we must take better care of the earth now so that those who come after us will be able to enjoy, benefit and be blessed by it.  Love demands we do no less.


(The image above was taken at Irwin Pond in the Hiwatha National Forest.  The beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan must definitely be preserved for future generations!)

Oct 14 2009

Loving Creation

UP HNF leaves 178One of my favorite novelists is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I’ve read most of his novels but my favorite is The Brothers Karamazov.  In a section of this classic book one of the characters says, “Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light.  Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” 

Jesus taught that the “greatest commandment” is that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength.  I think loving God’s Creation is also pretty important.  In fact, loving what God has made is one way we can show our love for God.  And if Dostoyevsky is right, it is also one way that we can come to know God better. 

It is also important that we come to love God’s Creation so that we can protect it.  We have a natural tendency to protect that which we love.  If people don’t care about the earth or the environment, they will not likely make an effort to preserve and protect it.  

There are a number of ways we can come to love Creation more.  First, we can do so by spending more time outdoors in nature.  I like looking at pictures of nature but they are no substitute for the real thing!  Second, we can study about the world God has made.  By reading books on natural history or individual species I have come to love and appreciate God’s Creation in new ways.  There is no shortage of wonderful books that will help you better understand God’s handiwork.  Third, pay close attention to the role nature plays in the Scriptures.  Literally from beginning to end the Bible shows us how important God’s Creation is to Him and for us.   Realizing this will lead us to love His Creation more. 

Loving Creation may not be the “greatest commandment” but it is definitely something Christians should strive to do. 


(The leaves above were photographed on Monday in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest.)