Love your neighbor, Jesus urged, as you love yourself. (Which, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, is a pretty sick command if we are to hate ourselves.) How you handle people is the second great test of your character.
Again, Jesus is cutting through both all the complexity and our dodging by helping us focus on our motives. It’s pretty hard to be a racist and still love that person. It’s pretty hard to hold bitterness in your heart and still love that person. So here, too, we find a profound rescue. Wherever it is we find ourselves struggling, we begin to choose love; in our hearts we begin to reaffirm our love for this human being. I find myself wanting to get irritated and judge: Jesus, help me love this person. I find myself wanting to envy: Jesus, help me love this person. As we allow love in, it flushes an awful lot of other stuff out.
“Do not murder,” the Bible says, but what about dismissal? I write people off far too quickly, and it is not good. What difference is there between dismissal and murder, really? Aren’t I basically saying, “I don’t want your existence—not in my orbit, not in my universe. You’re gone, you’re out of here.” James tells us, “Don’t show favorites.” Maybe we don’t have favorites, but we withhold praise, we withhold love, we withhold affection, we parcel it out based on all kinds of other motives than love. Most often it is based on how they are treating me, what they can do for me.