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“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  – Matthew 22:36-39 

If you’re a Christian or have been around the church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this verse over and over again. 

In this account in Matthew, the Pharisees were questioning and testing Jesus – which they often did throughout Scripture. And like many other situations, Jesus answered their question in a simple, yet challenging way.  

What is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor as yourself.  

Sounds simple, right?  

Later in Scripture, Jesus is questioned yet again about this topic, and is asked a follow-up: “Who is my neighbor?” 

This time, Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t read this story lately, you can read it starting at Luke 10:25.  

For those who have never heard this story before, you may be wondering what the big deal is. Why wouldn’t someone stop and help the injured man? He is laying on the side of the road, dying, and is in desperate need of help. Saving him isn’t love – it’s being human! 

For those who have heard this story more times than you can count, there may be the tendency to read over it and miss the impact. You know what Jesus is trying to say – that we should be like the Samaritan and help people in need. 

But here’s the hard truth: we miss opportunities to truly love our neighbor, like the Samaritan did, every single day.  

And missing these opportunities is impacting generations to come. 

A Culture of Love 

We live in a culture that celebrates love, seeks love, and at times, idolizes love… at least when it’s easy.  

For example, Valentine’s Day is a day of love and romance, flowers and chocolates, and greeting cards and dinner reservations. It’s easy to “love your neighbor” on Valentine’s Day – whether it’s your spouse, significant other, family members, or friends. You may even stretch yourself and give cards or do something special to show love to others in your community. 

But a few weeks after this day, when love is no longer in the air, we see the results of Valentine’s Day in the form of a boom in unexpected pregnancies around the country. 

For women and men who face this situation, choosing life for their preborn child may not come easy. And they will need someone to come alongside them to show them another kind of love – Christ’s love

This is where Jesus’ commandment to “love your neighbor” comes in. Because this kind of love can make all the lifesaving difference. 

“Jana’s” Story 

“Jana”, a member of Human Coalition’s staff, has a personal story that paints the perfect picture of the kind of impact loving your neighbor can have.  

When Jana was only 17, she found out she was pregnant.  

The father wanted nothing to do with the baby, and like many parents, her parents didn’t want to deal with the shame of a teenage pregnancy. 

“From every angle, I was told that I could not have a child, I would be a terrible mother, I was not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough,” Jana recalled. 

She wanted to choose life for her baby, but there was no support. There was no love. So, she did what many teenagers would do in this situation and got an abortion.  

“A part of me broke that day,” Jana said. “In the aftermath, I saw my life crumble and fall in ways one cannot imagine. And I started using drugs in the hopes of numbing the pain I felt.” 

But of course, the drugs didn’t help. And Jana continued her downward spiral.  

A few years later, Jana discovered she was pregnant again. But this time, fearful of having another abortion forced on her, she married the father of the baby. She and her husband went on to have another child and stayed married for the next few years. Then, the fact that their relationship was built on fear instead of love caught up with them, and it fell apart. 

Another year went by, and Jana learned that she was pregnant once again. She now faced another situation of being with an unsupportive father, who was pushing abortion on her.  

She was determined not to go through the deadly procedure again, so she left the father and started to figure out how she would raise all three children on her own. But in the months leading up to the birth of her third child, Jana’s life began to fall apart again, and she decided to put the child up for adoption. 

Jana then began to rebuild her life. She settled some legal issues, moved to a new town, and tried to pick up the pieces from a past riddled with pain.  

In her new town, she started dating, and soon discovered she was pregnant. She was unemployed, had little money, and didn’t feel like she could raise another child. She decided that she had to face her worst nightmare again and get an abortion.  

As she looked for an abortion clinic, she came across a life-affirming pregnancy resource center instead. Desperate to start the abortion process, she walked in. That’s when everything began to change.  

“I got a team of amazing people who not only wanted to help me choose LIFE for my child, but wanted to help me choose LIFE for myself,” Jana said. “I was scared, there is no other word for it. But through love and compassion… I was able to choose LIFE for my daughter!” 

Jana was quickly connected to a team of experts to help with material assistance, housing assistance, and employment assistance. The father found a better job to help support the growing family, and months later, Jana gave birth to her fourth child. 

As time went on, Jana’s life began to stabilize. She got involved with a church. She gave her life to Christ. And she married the father of her new child. 

Fast forward to today, and Jana and her husband have been married for 11 years and have built an amazing life for their family. And she is now working alongside Human Coalition to serve moms facing similar challenges that she once did. 

“Each and every day, I get to be part of the solution,” Jana said. “I get to be proof that there is a choice and you can win against all odds… I am honored to tell my story, to encourage each and every person who reads it. What you do makes a difference, and it is not just a difference for tomorrow, it is a generational difference!” 

A Generational Difference 

Jana’s story says it all: loving your neighbor can make a generational difference. 

In Jana’s case, the love that she was shown by the staff at the pregnancy resource center meant life for her and her child. Her child now has the opportunity to grow up, meet her spouse, and have children of her own one day.  

It’s an impact that could be felt for generations to come.  

But consider how Jana’s story could have been different had she been shown this same love from the beginning. What if instead of telling her that she couldn’t bring her first child into the world, someone would have been supportive and encouraging? What if someone would have helped connect her to resources and been there for her? What if someone would have shown her love when she was beaten down and in need, just like the Samaritan? 

The impact could have been felt for generations to come.  

How many women facing the same challenges that Jana did come into our lives every day?  

According to the most recent study from Guttmacher, 17% of women who aborted their child in 2014 identified as mainline Protestant. Another 13% identified as evangelical Protestant, and a staggering 24% identified as Catholic.  

That means over half of the women who aborted their children in 2014 identified as Protestant or Catholic.  

Taking it a step further, according to another study from 2015, more than four in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended their pregnancy.  

More likely than not, someone who you sit next to in church every week has experienced abortion or is considering abortion. 

So the critical question is: Will you be their neighbor? 

Will you give them hope instead of judgement? Will you provide them support and resources, instead of guilt and shame? Will you show them love? 

Your answers to these questions could make all the difference in the life of a mom, just like Jana. Your answers to these questions could mean life for a child. Your answers to these questions could make a generational difference.  

What is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor as yourself.  

It’s that simple.  

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