Friday, May 31, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor



“Apparently, some people think Jesus was an ass.” I can’t tell you who said this, but I can tell you the conversation centered around proclaiming to be Christ-like in action while behaving abominably toward others. I have a friend who went out for dinner with her significant other. They ordered tomato and onion, cheese-less with extra tomato. They enjoyed intimate conversation, shared a few kisses, and left a generous tip. As they were about to leave their table, an older gentleman accosted them. My friend’s significant other, it turns out, was female. The gentleman didn’t care for this. Said they were acting in a disgusting manner, said they should be ashamed of themselves, said they were a horrible example to the other young people in the establishment. I would venture to say it was he who acted in a disgusting manner, he who was a horrible example.

Love thy neighbor.

But only if thy neighbor is exactly like thyself.

There is a definite movement lately to encourage singularity in thought, word, and action. If you believe as I do, then you are worthy of God’s love. If you act as I do, think as I do, look as I do, then you are worthy of God’s love. If you attend the same church, claim the same denomination, profess the same faith, then you are worthy of God’s love. Only if you are worthy of God’s love are you worthy of mine. I know a guy who was dating a girl. She professed her love, her ultimate love, but assured him that he was going to Hell because he was not baptized in the church in which she herself had been baptized. She professed her love, but assured him, that despite being Christian, he had a place in Hell.

Love thy neighbor.

But only if thy neighbor is exactly like thyself.

I remember an evening spent writing at the local coffee shop. I was with my daughter and the words were not coming. Not coming at all. I watched as, at a neighboring table, a woman approached a mother and daughter. The pair was both studying and finishing up a little work. The woman, with blond hair tied back and sparse make-up neatly applied, asked if they might spare a dollar. The woman, with her male partner, was approaching multiple tables in the same fashion. At first I was taken aback. This is a bookstore. This is a respected business. Then there was a part of me that was thankful, thankful that I, on a beautiful summer night was enjoying time penning an essay and sipping on sweet lemonade. Thankful that I was not at a point in my life where I had to beg a dollar from neighboring tables in order to eat. This moved me, but not enough to approach the begging woman. Not enough until I was outside, at which point I slipped her a twenty and prayed to God that I was never in a position to have to grovel for money just to survive.

Love thy neighbor.

Every neighbor.

This is the deal. My biggest challenge comes in loving those not like myself. My greatest lessons come in accepting others whose beliefs differ significantly from mine. One of the most rewarding friendships I have ever made is crafted from a difference in beliefs so great it pains me to even consider. I am tested every day to the very outer limits of my patience. But he makes me laugh. He makes me feel good about myself. We have a very good deal in common. We have a very good deal in common despite having a very good deal that separates us. He has been my lesson in tolerance. And it has been a wonderful lesson indeed.

Love thy neighbor.

Every neighbor.

The friend who made the original statement? The one who was so much like me and so much on the same page? He has since left me, deeming me unworthy as a friend. We have gone our separate ways. Maybe to meet up again at some point in the future, maybe to never meet again despite a wonderful beginning. I can proclaim to be Christ-like in action, but ultimately I am human and will love only as much as humanly possible.

Love thy neighbor.

But only as much as I am capable of loving.








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