13 July 2017
Love of neighbor is a basic commandment; it runs throughout Scripture. And by “neighbor” we don’t necessarily mean people we know. More often than not Scripture views a “neighbor” as someone we don’t know.
In the Letter to the Hebrews we hear: “Do not forget to show love to strangers, for by doing so some have unknowingly entertained angels” (13:2). In the Book of Leviticus we hear: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as a native-born among you” (19:34). The Book of Exodus says: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (22:21). Psalm 146: “The Lord protects the stranger” (vs 9).
And, of course, there is the Great Commandment of the Lord to love our neighbors as though they’re ourselves. There’s the story of the Good Samaritan, the woman at the well, Jesus’ reaching out to those who were sick, wounded, forgotten, or despised.
Love of neighbor is a basic commandment; it runs throughout Scripture. It’s in our readings today about Joseph and his brothers, and Jesus’ having sent out his apostles. Only here, Scripture talks more about the consequences of being inhospitable.
As we know, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery. He was their own flesh-and-blood, and they weren’t exactly hospitable to him. But when the truth came, Joseph was merciful to them—even though his first concern was for his father’s well-being, not his brothers’. And then there were the apostles, sent not to foreign lands, but to their own people; to their own flesh-and-blood. Only the consequence here of being inhospitable was to be something worse than what had happened to Sodom and Gomorrah; not much mercy involved there.
Of course, none of us loves our neighbors perfectly. But the intention is what matters. If our intention is to love our neighbors, to be hospitable to those we meet, even if we do that imperfectly there’s no doubt that God will overlook the failings because he sees the intention in our heart. That’s why Joseph’s brothers were shown mercy; they weren’t bad people, they were still learning.
Love of neighbor is a basic commandment; however, it can be a tough one to follow. But as long as we’re trying, and we have that intention in our heart, everything will be okay—for us, and for the strangers and angels among us.