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Faces on Faith: Love your neighbor

By REV. BILL VAN OSS - | Feb 23, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss

I am writing this on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a day for expressing our love to those we are closest to. It is a day for candy hearts, Hallmark cards, chocolate treats and flowers. On Valentine’s Day, love is about feelings of affection we have for those who are closest to us: our spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone we want to be our sweetheart. “Valentine’s Day love” is good, but it is not the only kind of love there is.

In the Bible, God instructs (commands) us to love our neighbor. Jesus, quoting Leviticus 19:18, gives us this command as part of the Great Commandment (along with loving God). This love is more than Valentine’s Day love. It has little to do with warm fuzzy feelings.

This kind of love seeks what is best for the other. It is a sacrificial love that seeks the well-being and the good of others. This love enables us to love people we do not know, to love even a stranger. It is a commitment to act for the well-being of others even when we might not feel like it. It enables us to love even our enemy.

We are being asked to wear a face mask, preferably two, during this pandemic. Even if you are vaccinated, you can transmit this terrible disease to others, so you need to wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands frequently. It is an act of loving your neighbor to do these things. I wear a mask and keep my distance to protect you, you do the same to protect me. It is loving our neighbor in practice. It is a small inconvenience, a tiny sacrifice, that can literally save lives.

Last week I had a long visit with someone whose husband died after spending almost a month in intensive care with COVID-19. He was not yet 65 years old and did not have serious underlying health conditions. Her description of his time in the ICU was heart wrenching. Her grief over losing him was raw. We need to continue to take this disease seriously.

The love we experience as warm fuzzy feelings is wonderful, but we need to remember that there is a larger love that God calls us to embrace. It is love for our neighbor that seeks what is best, that seeks the good, for them. That includes wearing a face mask, preferably two, keeping our distance, washing our hands, getting vaccinated as soon as we are able and perhaps even offering to help schedule someone else. So many ways to love our neighbor each and every day.

The Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss is the rector at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church.