But in this racing world, have I slowed enough to really love my neighbor?
Each day, I watch real-life neighbors zip down the highway in a blur of steel beyond the alfalfa field. I wave to them, and consider my effortless gesture an act of love.
In this place where a dusty country lane meets blacktop, our paths intersect, but our lives don’t — not really anyhow. For I am too hurried to love my neighbors as Christ taught.
I glance across cornfields, and see a woman sitting on her back step alone.
Love her? Too busy.
For years, I watched another neighbor shuffle by every day, kicking gravel down the shoulder, head down, eyes to the ditches. Alone.
Love him? Too risky.
(He died earlier this year, so I never found out what the investment would have returned.)
Instead of loving my neighbor, I retreat behind walls, and find ways to give only risk-free love — the kind I can give on my terms, on my own time with little chance of rejection.
Easy love, this love. It’s the kind of love I can send in a sealed envelope or over the information superhighway. I can put a stamp on it, hit “send,” then walk away. And somehow I think I’ve loved thy neighbor as thyself.
“Get well soon! We’re praying!” and we sign our names “with love.” That’s a cinch.
I write a check for a hungry child in Brazil, and stick a stamp in the corner of the envelope, and send it in the name of Jesus Christ. Easy love, this love. We’ve budgeted for this. Where’s the sacrifice?
I tap words on a keyboard, speak the language of God-love here in a little corner of the Web with minimal face-to-face accountability. But if I don’t give love away in my own neighborhood, I’m no better than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, am I? I’d just be a woman tapping out words of hope along a superhighway — but living like a noisy gong along the Iowa asphalt of my everyday.
“So, no matter what I say,
what I believe,
and what I do,
I’m bankrupt without love.”
– From 1 Corinthians (The Message)
And then, every once in a while, love goes marching by our living-room window.And we have a chance to put this grace we preach into action.
That’s how it happened this fall for our family friend, Bob. High-risk love showed up on the sidewalk of his middle-class, middle-America, middle-aged world in white-bread Iowa. And it wasn’t packaged neatly in the way — or place — that Bob had expected. He had a choice to make.
It started with a mission trip to Mexico, where Bob heard God’s call to minister to a Latino family when he returned to Iowa.
“I came home, and I was praying and looking for that family,” said Bob, a pastor in a nearby town. “I talked to a Hispanic pastor looking for that family. I would go the trailer park, looking for that family.”
Meanwhile, a man named Juan had begun strolling past Bob’s house. “I’d wonder what he was doing out there in my neighborhood.”
And then one day, God’s nudge became a shove: “You need to meet that guy.”
And so Bob did. He stopped, talked a while. They exchanged phone numbers. Turns out, Juan didn’t live in the trailer park; he lived just down the street.
Hispanic Juan and corn-fed Iowan Bob are neighbors in a middle-class neighborhood in America.
“I’d been looking in the trailer park for a Hispanic family, and God had been parading Juan right past my house,” Bob said. “This has been a spiritual marker for me. I mean, here I thought that Juan probably lives in the trailer park; that was myposture.* … If I think that Hispanics can’t live in my neighborhood, do I really love them? Do I really want their feet under my table?”
As it turns out, Bob really does want brown-skinned feet and Spanish accents coloring his kitchen. He and his wife are investing real love — sacrificial love — into people who can’t be checked off a list with a Hallmark card.
They invited Juan’s family over for Sunday dinner.
And, this morning, I consider love.
I look down the driveway, and God has sent another sunrise over the cornfield-carpeted crust of the Earth. In the quiet, across the field, I hear a screen door open then shut against a wooden frame. The neighbors are awake.
I spin dizzy on the axis of another day. Will I love easy today? Or will I love with ferocious, risky love expecting nothing in return?
Today, I will love with Kingdom Love.
On this day, I will step off the well-worn path back to my walled retreat. I will step into gusty love that demands more of me.
Who knows what might happen if — on this day — I love my neighbor as myself?
I might just find that my companions on the journey Home are pilgrims whom God has been parading right under my nose every single day.
Posture: The term comes from a chapter in a book that our friend Bob has been reading: The Tangible Kingdom. The book challenges the Body of Christ to live missionally in the kingdom. The authors suggest that we often don’t develop our muscles of mission, but focus on growth in head knowledge and theological doctrines. The authors challenge us to think missionally, to truly follow Christ — right here in our own communities. In this video from the authors, “a normal God-searching man finds hope as he sees a glimpse of the Kingdom in a community of friends, around a table, and everywhere he goes.” Source: The Tangible Kingdom.
Street image from stock.xchng. Sunrise image from my front yard this morning.