Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
Driving two of my grandchildren to school one day I rolled down my window to speak to a neighbor who lived two blocks away from my home. My grandson asked me, “Do you know him, granddaddy?” I answered, “No, but he’s my neighbor.” My puzzled 6-year-old grandson asked me how that man could be my neighbor if he did not live close to me. I told him and his sister the following true story.
A young woman named Laura Shrake was driving through the Illinois farmland and saw a woman being mauled by a bull in a pasture. She saw the bull stomping on her and tossing her body with his horns. Laura immediately stopped her car and ran over to the fence, a tall fence covered in barbed wire. Then Laura did something unbelievable. She went over the fence. A neighbor showed up when she scrambled to the other side and threw Laura piece of pipe. And Laura approached the bull and just hit the bull in the face over and over and over. She gave the woman time enough to crawl away and get through the fence, followed closely by Laura herself. When Laura was asked why she did this she replied, “I don’t know. I just knew I had to do something!”
Laura is a very normal person, with a job and a family. She’s just an ordinary person who saw another person in trouble. And in that moment, this completely ordinary lady loved her neighbor as she loved herself.
As I explained to my grandchildren, a neighbor is anyone outside of your home and your inner circle that is in your vicinity. Sometimes neighbors are strangers to our culture, careers, and calling, but because we are in proximity to them, we are bound in mutuality.
It appears to me that our society is leaning toward avoidance of others. We avoid speaking to others, looking at others, assisting others, and loving others. These times could be accurately described as the “selfish years.” We eat alone; we entertain ourselves alone. Earphones block us from others. We text rather than talk to others. In many cases, forgetting the real purpose of church, we stay home and watch worship services so as to avoid others.
Jesus was challenged once by a teacher of the law who asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. First, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Jesus then said to the teacher, “There is no commandment greater than these.”
Perhaps, we cannot change society overnight. The world gets changed a step at a time. People, after they have been affected by the courtesy of strangers, will begin to do the same for others. Eventually politeness and genuine love will become more common in the world.
Howard Thurman once remarked, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor. How I must seek ever the maintenance of the kind of relatedness to others that will feed the springs of kindness and sympathy in me! I shall study how I can be tender without being soft; gracious without being ingratiating; kind without being sentimental; and understanding without being judgmental.”
Pray: Lord, help me be kind to others, even those who are not a part of my usual circle. Let Your spirit of love and inclusiveness dwell in me, so that this world, Your world, our world will be a better place. Amen.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com