John Perkins on Loving Our Neighbor

John Perkins is probably one of the most important Christian leaders that most of the white evangelical world has never heard of. He was beaten and nearly killed during the Civil Rights movement, he is a champion for the cause of the poor (and more specifically, living among the poor) and he’s created space for interracial healing and dialogue through ministries like CCDA and Voice of Calvary. I had the chance to attend the CCDA conference in Miami a few years ago, and John Perkins’ morning devotions/reflections were one of the highlights for me (you can get a taste here). While I was there, I picked up a few of his books, and this week I’ve been looking through one of those books called Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development and came across these words:

“Most of us don’t see the commandment to love our neighbor as having anything to do with dealing with physical needs. But this is primarily because we have allowed the culture in which we live to redefine the word love for us. The love that we talk about now is a lollipop; its a smile and a “God bless you!” The love of Jesus, the love he intends for us to show our neighbors is much tougher than this. In his first epistle, the apostle John says that our love should be of the same quality as Jesus’ love for us, that we get our dfinition of love not from our feelings or our culture but from the cross. “We know this, that He he laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16 NASB).

When it comes to loving people, we hedge. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). People say, “Sure, I’m willing to die for you.” But are we willing to live for our neighbor? To love people is to spend energy and resources and time to serve them. To love people in practical ways that have impact on their whole being–their spirits, their economic situation, their health, their minds–that’s God’s will.

(Beyond Charity, p.141)

FYI: Switchfoot has a song on their latest album inspired by John Perkins and a phrase he uses–“Love is the final fight.” There’s a great music video to accompany the song.

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