And I think that I do.
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 my