The simple side of loving your neighbor
A Christian Science perspective: God designed us to love one another, care for one another, minister to one another.
You may have heard the story. There is an elderly woman in Memphis who every day called Domino’s and ordered a pepperoni pizza. Every day she did this for three years straight! Then one day the pizza shop got no call. The next day, same thing. The day after that, same thing again. Finally, one of the delivery ladies took action and went to the house. She knocked and knocked at the door – no response. Chatted with some neighbors – no sightings. Pounded on some windows – not a peep. So, she called 911. They found the elderly woman on the floor, unable to reach her phone after she’d fallen. They kept her overnight for observation at the hospital, but she wasn’t in critical condition. Everyone is saying her daily pizza saved her life.
It’s hard to hear a good-news story like that without immediately thinking of what can also be viewed as a kind of “life-saver”: Christ Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matt. 22:38, 39). This was so important to the Master he made it second only to his command to love God. And yet, one of the lovely things about the story is that, all of the delivery lady’s endeavors were totally ordinary. Nothing she did was even remotely supernatural or extraordinary. Maybe that should be one of the take-away messages from this little episode. Loving your neighbor may be a lot simpler a lot of the time than it’s made out to be.
In fact, such caring is native to each one of us. It is built into our true nature to take such actions. God designed us to love one another, care for one another, minister to one another. This may at times involve nothing more than the ordinary – a friendly tap at the door. A rightly timed phone call. But even the ordinary can make a world of healing difference; can replenish wellsprings of hope and resolve. The outcome, of course, may extend far beyond the ordinary. It certainly did for that elderly fan of pepperoni pizza.
Of course, situations do come along where an ordinary response, no matter how well intended, simply won’t meet the need, won’t be of the healing magnitude that Christ Jesus taught was possible for his followers. At those times it’s a relief to recall that when the Master gave us commands, he also gave us the wherewithal to fulfill those commands. Even if that meant taking the concept of loving one’s neighbor to a whole new level.
Consider a New Testament episode, involving two of his disciples, John and Peter. As they approached a temple, they came across a panhandler. He was lame. Perhaps it was fortunate for him, that the two disciples had no change and couldn’t do the ordinary – couldn’t give him a handout. However, they could love in a way that must have seemed extraordinary. In lieu of tossing him spare change, Peter said, “ ‘Look at us.’ The man attended, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’ ” (Acts 3:5, 6, James Moffatt Version). He did. He entered the temple with them, leaping as well as walking.
Healing like that must have involved at least a glimpse of the nature and power and presence of God, divine Love. There was no separating what Love is from what Love does. For present-day followers of the Master, there doesn’t have to be a separation either.
Mary Baker Eddy glimpsed the Science of divine Love, a Science grounded on the commands to love God and to love one’s neighbor. For Mrs. Eddy, this meant loving in ways that looked both ordinary and extraordinary. For instance, for a number of years it was her practice to give a new pair of winter shoes to each needy child in her community of Concord, N.H. (Irving Tomlinson, “Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy,” Amplified Edition, pp. 244-246). At the same time, reports of her ministry of spiritual healing in that same community were numerous during her lifetime.
Did she ever weary of the pettiness that would sometimes block out the most basic Christian love of one for another? Perhaps. But she seems to have never lost sight of what it really meant to love one another, nor of the blessings that could follow. She wrote in her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “My weary hope tries to realize that happy day, when man shall recognized the Science of Christ and love his neighbor as himself, – when he shall realize God’s omnipotence and the healing power of the divine Love in what it has done and is doing for mankind” (p. 55).
At the deepest level there aren’t really two kinds of Love, ordinary and extraordinary. Just as there is only one God, there is only one divine Love. Whether we live love in ways kindred to what the pizza delivery lady did, or live love in ways kindred to what Peter and John did – or some of both – it all comes from the same source. With every proof, we draw more in line with divine Love. The blessings continue to grow.
From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.