Who Is My Neighbor?

A NUMBER of years ago my family and I lived in a neighborhood with families whose religious beliefs were quite unlike our own. Although my neighbors had given me no reason to regard them so critically, I had mistakenly let the differences I saw influence my attitude. I was certainly doing nothing to foster badly needed unity in the neighborhood! My behavior was a prime example of the divisive thinking that deters healing and harmony in human relationships. It is love that heals: the love that Christ Jesus spoke of in the Lord's Prayer when he said: ``And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.''1 A spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer is offered by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She writes of this line: ``And Love is reflected in love.''2 Such love, lived, would make our world a better place in which to live because it is reflected from God who is Love.

Recognizing the importance of spiritually loving our neighbor is only the first step; it can seem quite another matter to actually develop in our hearts that spirit of love which is so overflowing that all with whom we come in contact will feel it and be blessed thereby.

Mrs. Eddy points out: ``The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love.''3 This love that is poured forth by flood tides bestows its good equally on all of us regardless of church membership, skin color, sex, age, or the neighborhood in which one lives. Because this love is spiritual, it serves as a unifying bond for all mankind. Christ Jesus demonstrated this. He dined with publicans, sinners, Pharisees, as well as his own apostles. He healed and redeemed noblemen, beggars, men, women, and children. To the degree that we possess such Christly affection, we too will aid the promotion of brotherly love among men.

About a year after our move into the neighborhood where I had viewed my neighbors so critically, a serious fire destroyed our kitchen and caused extensive smoke damage throughout the house. As my family and I stood in front of our house watching the firemen, I began to pray. As soon as the firemen had left, our neighbors came to us with offers of lodging, meals, help in cleaning the house and our clothing. This outpouring of genuine love and neighborliness was a wonderful blessing to each member of the family.

I was so very grateful for the kindness of all of our neighbors, but the best part of the experience was the change in my thinking as to ``who is my neighbor?'' Our neighbors' care certainly was Love reflected in love, and it blessed us all.

Since that time I have often thought of the experience and seen that inflammatory or divisive thinking has no abiding place in any of God's children. As a familiar hymn puts it: Let all that now divides us

Remove and pass away, Like shadows of the morning

Before the blaze of day. Let all that now unites us

More sweet and lasting prove, A closer bond of union,

In a blest land of love.4

The fact that we all have one Father-Mother God, when lived, acts as a unifying influence among all mankind.

1 Matthew 6:12. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17. 3Ibid., p. 201. 4Christian Science Hymnal, No. 196.

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