The first great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The day I realized that these are not two commandments, but one single commandment, was a day of revelation for me. It took me a few years of searching to see it, but when this realization came home, then BAM! I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was so excited to get started. So I founded an organization called Generation Alive.
Initially, it was about training young people to lead, and to dream really big. That’s why I started Generation Alive. I said, “Okay, you know, I have to figure out some way to love my neighbor as myself. I want to love on young people. I want to tell them to dream really big.” So I got this huge idea to start a non-profit. I hired a guy to serve as Generation Alive’s director. We got into a couple of schools, and we talked about dreaming big. It seemed like it was going well, but nothing ever really caught on. Generation Alive was failing. I mean, it was failing big time. And I ended up having to let the director go.
I went to God and I asked Him, “So what do you want then? I want to love my neighbor. I’m trying, God! I want to go to these kids, who have great abilities to dream, and I want to encourage them. Isn’t that what you’re asking me to do? Why am I failing?”
God’s answer was to give me another lesson. He started teaching me about poverty. And that was when I started figuring out that dreaming isn’t so easy outside of the United States. When you get into developing countries, and even some parts of the US, you’ll find people who are so poor that they can’t even dream. They’re just trying to live day to day.
And God said, “Jeremy. If you want to be an extension of me, you have to understand your neighbor. You have to know where your neighbor’s needs are. If you want to love them as you love yourself, you need to know them. Open your eyes, Jeremy. Look at what’s going on in the poverty world. There are people dying of hunger. Don’t you want to eat?”
And I told God, “Yes, I do want to eat!”
“Well then,” God said, “Help your neighbor eat! And there are people who don’t have clean water to drink. They are thirsty. Don’t you get thirsty, Jeremy?”
I said, “Yes, I get thirsty!”
“Well then,” God said, “Help your neighbor drink life-giving water. Put in a well for them!”
God told me, “Jeremy, they don’t want to hear you come in there and tell them, ‘Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or you’re going to rot in hell.’ What are they supposed to say to that? They are dying! So how about you feed them first? Right now, what they need is food. What they need is water. You want to be the Gospel, Jeremy? Then feed your neighbor who is starving. You want to be the Gospel? Then give them something to drink. You want to be the Gospel? Then visit them. Clothe them when they’re naked. You want to be the Gospel? Learn to love your neighbor as yourself first. And my aroma will flow off of you.”
That was the last time I failed to understand my neighbor’s needs. And when I started my journey into the world of poverty and injustice, the failures of my life were replaced with love. Finally, I found success. More on this next time. See you Saturday.