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That We May Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves

by E. Glenn Hinson

Crescent Hill Baptist Church -- September 7, 2008

O God, we know it’s presumptuous to pray.

Yet we must, for you have commanded it, and we can’t face life without it.

We know, too, why you have commanded it.

Not just because we need it, but because you’ve fallen in love with us and can’t get along without us, Mad Lover that you are.

You put yourself on the spot when you did it, you know, and now here we are, coming just as we are, to put before you our “souls’ sincere desires.”

What is our soul’s sincere desire?

We can’t really put it into words because so many other thoughts have come in and taken control of our lives, but here are some of the ways we’ve learned to  express it:

  • We want to do your will, O God, not just our own.
  • We want to obey your commandments and instruction rather than go our selfish ways.
  • Or, as the Apostle Paul said it, we want to love our neighbors as ourselves, which sums up the Law in its entirety.

We can’t hear ourselves say those words, though, without recognizing that we have failed to live them and need to ask your forgiveness. Forgive us, O God,

  • When we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • When we fail to consider how our desire for comforts and conveniences causes    hurt to people in poorer nations.
  • When we let the chasm between rich and poor in our nation and between nations   grow and grow and grow without protest and effort to change.
  • When we let our busyness and distractedness keep us from being “good     Samaritans” to people in a ditch by the side of the road.

Your loving kindness and infinite patience alone can assure us that you forgive us, but we know that your grace impels us to renewed resolution to love our neighbors like  you love—without partiality and without limit. And we know that your love alone can transform us and energize us to love our neighbors as we have never  loved before.

In humility, then, we gather here in your presence, O God, to plead “that your love may  grow more and more in us in understanding and in every sensitivity, so that we may have a sense of things that really matter, in order that we may be pure in  heart in the day of Christ and filled with the fruit of righteousness that redounds  through Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God” (Phil 1:9-11).

As we bow in the presence of you “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference  is nowhere,” we lift up to you a few of our concerns for neighbors:

  • Our beloved neighbors from Myanmar and the families they have had to leave   behind.
  • Our neighbors of all ages in Crescent Hill Baptist Church who wrestle with  life’s vulnerabilities.
  • Our neighbors in the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky in their efforts  to provide adequate sustenance for the whole body politic in a time of economic  stress.
  • Our neighbors in our nation and all the nations of the earth in their earnest  search for justice, freedom, and peace.
  • Especially our neighbors everywhere who suffer the ravages of war—the deaths,  the famine, the loss of livelihoods and homes, the devastation.

O God, we pray that you will give us

  • eyes to see who are our neighbors,
  • ears to hear their cries,
  • hearts to love them as you love us,
  • minds to understand how to put love into action,
  • and hands to do what our hearts and minds tell us.

Now we make bold to pray the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, saying,
“Our Father . . .”


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