An issue in another thread got pulled into a private message. It raised a point that I think is worth going over with the group.

Christ summarized all of the Law into two fundamentals: (1) Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and (2) Love your neighbor.

For years, I wrestled with that second point. I don't like most people; let alone love them. I felt like I couldn't possibly succeed at this. It felt like an insurmountable proposition. How could I change my heart? How could I force myself to like the taste of beets more than the taste of ice cream? Eventually I grew to realize that it wasn't about a feeling within my heart; it is about action. I may not like vegetables more than dessert, but I can eat vegetables more than dessert. And loving others is frequently analogous to eating your vegetables--even if you don't really want to do it, you know that you should.

Christ told us, "Whatever you do for the least of men, you do also for me." We are instructed to help the poor. In our current political climate (and by current, I mean during the last half-century), there is sort of an automatic response from the freedom-loving man when these topics come up. We've seen the leftists try to turn Jesus into a communist so frequently that we instantly assume a defensive posture; our walls go up, our ears close, and we turn away. Christ's command to love your brother is something entirely different than an edict from the government, confiscating the fruit of our labor by threat of force, siphoning off a significant portion of what is taken, and then distributing what remains to others in order to maintain power. One is love, the other is extortion. And we are so heavily extorted in the name of charity, that it has the natural effect of making us despise charity.

Properly understanding this command requires us to set aside the political issues of the day (which is much more difficult than it sounds) and focusing exclusively on God. For me, this means a very intentional clearing-of-the-mind and a suppression of my intuitive responses.

Next, consider who you are commanded to love. At some point, I want to do a deep dive (getting into the Hebrew and Greek) on the differences between brothers, neighbors, and enemies. Brothers and neighbors seem to get lumped together frequently in theological discussions, but they are not the same. My brothers are Christian, my neighbors may not be. And enemies do still exist. There were plenty of enemies throughout the Bible, and they frequently got a good smiting. Some people are evil and dangerous, and make themselves your enemies. When that happens, the best love you can show them might be praying for them as you squeeze the trigger. It definitely does not mean coddling them; assisting them in doing evil; or even standing by while they do evil. But we are told to love our neighbors, which extends beyond the little flock within our own church.

We are told to help "the poor," but how do we identify the poor? The Census Bureau has a really simple formula for poverty: it's the bottom 20%. So no matter how wealthy we become as a nation, by definition the bottom fifth will always be poor. That's a stupid definition. Already, 100% of our poor people are adequately fed. We provide shelter, hot water, indoor plumbing, medical care, and more. Travel back in time two centuries, and our "poor" are better off than 90% of the population was back then. Maybe "needy" is a better word. We see people in need all of the time. The lady broken down by the side of the road with an infant to care for might be quite well off, but at that moment in time she still qualifies as needy. Cell phones have destroyed some of our chivalry, because now we often assume that anyone can just dial a number and help will come for them. Something I appreciated about Alaska was that people still stopped to help, because they didn't assume that you had cell coverage.

My profession makes it very easy to find people who are needy. Whether they made a bad decision or they are falsely accused, they need help dealing with the system that threatens to crush them. I have found a way to combine my missions and work simultaneously as a criminal defense attorney and also a Christian missionary. I don't talk to 100% of my clients about God, but most of them hear the gospel at some point. That's how I love. Nobody would describe me as an effusively affectionate guy. I'm not a hugger. But I can love by serving, and I serve with the skills that God gave me. I'm a damned good trial lawyer, and I will use those skills to help people.

Depending on what you do for a living, it may not be easy to figure out how to use your work as a service to others. And maybe work isn't the way at all. Maybe you just go to work to pay the bills, and you serve others in your off time. But service is how you fulfill the command. You may never like people, but you can still love them, and that's what God wants from you.