As citizens of this post-modern America, with fewer people holding the Bible in high regard or expressing confidence in what it says, we still often hear references to its teachings. One of those we most commonly hear is about “loving your neighbor.”
This principle has become a bit of a cliché, unfortunately, its meaning reduced to being understood essentially as blindly accepting, even condoning, what other people do – no matter what. After all, “judge not lest you be judged,” right? (Another overused, even misused biblical truth that’s taken on cliché status.)
But when Jesus stated, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:31), what did He really mean? In another passage, He elaborated on this somewhat, saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
Again we need to ask, however, what does this look like? How are we to live this out?
Shouldn’t this mean a lot more than merely adopting a live-and-let live, “I’m OK, you’re OK” outlook on life?
This came to mind – appropriately I suppose – one Sunday morning as I was pulling into our church parking lot. Guiding my car into a vacant spot, I noticed one of the sliding side doors of the minivan parked nearby was open and the headlights were on. My first thought was that the owner was behind the vehicle out of sight. But after a few moments I saw no movement.
Someone walked past the minivan, glancing at it before he continued toward the church building. I got out of my car, grabbed my stuff and started to do the same. “Hey, it’s not my problem. If someone’s foolish enough not to close up their car, that’s no business of mine,” was the thought that admittedly breezed through my mind.
Then I stopped. “What if that were me? What if, for whatever reason, I was in a rush or distracted and failed to close up my car? Would I appreciate someone bothering to do it for me, even though it’s not their problem?”
So I retraced my steps, looked briefly into the minivan and saw some kids’ stuff strewn around, but not a person in sight. It took me all of about five seconds to push the button to close the side door and reach in the driver’s side to turn off the headlights, which apparently didn’t have automatic shut-off.
Since it had rained earlier that morning, perhaps a single mom had been trying to herd her children into the building without getting drenched, leaving the door open and the lights on. Or maybe it was a young couple with as many little kids as they had arms, forgetting details like doors and headlights. I’ll never know, because when I got back to my car an hour later, the minivan was gone.
This isn’t to commend my actions because after all, I briefly thought about ignoring the situation. But if circumstances had been reversed and I had been the one whose car door was left open and headlights still burning, I would have wanted someone else – even a stranger – to be kind enough to correct my oversight.
Seems to me, that’s what loving your neighbor is about.
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.