Love Your Neighbor

"The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question"
--Nikolai Bordyaev

"It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor"
--Eric Hoffer

There is a legendary story told about Catherine Booth--wife of Salvation Army founder William Booth and preacher in her own right. While on a speaking tour of the States she drew enormous crowds of people coming from every level of American Society. It's said that, after a particular engagement, she was received in the home of a local aristocrat. At one point Mrs. Booth's hostess remarked to her, "My dear Mrs. Booth, that meeting was dreadful."

"What do you mean, Dearie?" asked Mrs. Booth.

"Oh, when you were speaking, I was looking at those people opposite to me. Their faces were so terrible, many of them. I don't think I shall sleep tonight!"

"Why, dearie, don't you know them?" Mrs. Booth asked; and the hostess replied, "Certainly not!"

"Well, that is interesting," Mrs. Booth said. "I did not bring them with me from London; they are your neighbors!"

This particular woman wasn't much different from the rich man in Jesus' parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus. She was able to live her life oblivious to the suffering of those around her. So she was shocked when she came to a place that she couldn't look away. She was confronted by the plight of her neighbors.

Jesus' call to love our neighbors is unmerciful and unrelenting, because he does the same thing with it that he does with all of his other instructions. He refuses to limit in some way that will make it easier on us. He says, "Don't just avoid committing murder; don't hate others." He says, "Don't just avoid revenge, love your enemies."

He does the same thing with our definition of neighbors. According to Jesus, our neighbor is basically anyone we see who is in need. Neighbor is not a matter of proximity or status or shared values. Our neighbor can be anyone, and we are called to love them. It's the second greatest command.

I can't help but wonder if it's not the hardest one, though. We'll take a closer look at loving our neighbor today. Glad you're here.