“What does it mean to truly love your neighbor?”
What a great question for us to ponder. In giving us the Great Commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So the question isn’t if we should love our neighbors but how do we love our neighbors. Outside of Jesus, one of the greatest examples of teaching people to love their neighbors was Mr. Rogers. He rightfully said, “The best thing we can do is to help someone know they are loved and capable of loving.” Truly loving your neighbor is accomplished by becoming a person of love—love needs to be deeply rooted in the heart.
Like most other disciplines in life, becoming love takes time and practice. I was thinking back over years past and contemplating ways I have shown love and felt love from others. One act that I remember, and really miss, is toilet papering someones home and having my home rolled with toilet paper. Maybe you have been on both sides of this act of love. The only people I ever toilet papered were people that I really cared about—I never wasted my toilet paper on people I didn’t like. Every toss of a roll of toilet paper high into the trees was an act of saying, “I love you.”
A few weeks ago Kelly and I were in two separate cars running errands, but we decided to meet up at one location, get into one vehicle and continue our errands together as a family. Later, when it was time to go home, we forgot about my vehicle and left it where it was parked—about 30 minutes away from the house. In order to make our chaotic life much easier, I decided that I would Uber to my car and bring it back home. I had been listening to a book on Audible and the theme of the book was love—how to love other people, especially difficult people. I realized this was a good opportunity to have about 30 minutes to sit in the back of a car and listen to my book.
So I scheduled my Uber driver and confirmation came back to me that Carolyn would be my driver. When you receive a confirmation from Uber you typically get a little bio information on your driver. I briefly read that my Uber driver was a very chatty person. Let me tell you, that was an understatement. Knowing this, I knew I would have to react quickly once I got into the car. So I immediately pulled out my phone and headphones to stick them in my ear. But I wasn’t quick enough. Carolyn began chatting about her life. In that 30 minute ride, I learned everything about her family: the states that her children live in, and the difficult relationships she has experienced with her children and husband. According to Carolyn, her children do not want to be around her and therefore she is not able to see her grandchildren. About 15 minutes into the drive I realized I would not be listening to my book, so I placed the phone and headphones down in the seat and just listened. Carolyn paused for a second and the conversation briefly turned toward me. She asked, “what do you do for a living?” With all her troubles I was a little hesitant to respond, but I told her that I was a minister. That was followed with an, “oh,” and then, “well, I have been wanting to ask a minister some questions.” She continued to ask open-ended questions about the Christian faith but she never gave me an opportunity to respond. When we stopped at my car, she thanked me for listening to her and said that our conversation had made her day much better.
I realized something when I got out of the car: I had been reading a book about love and how to love difficult people, but before I even got into the car, I was looking for a way to avoid a person I knew was chatty and probably difficult. I wonder how often I avoid the people Jesus spent his life engaging. I wish I would have gotten into the car with the mentality of toilet papering her life—letting her know and feel that she was loved. The time I spent with Carolyn has challenged me to ask myself, am I truly loving my neighbor?
How about you? Let’s begin practicing today the art of throwing toilet paper rolls at everyone we come into contact with.