I KNOW I thought I was a good neighbor. I was as friendly -- in passing -- as I could be; I even participated in neighborhood gatherings, when I had time. But then I gained a real neighbor who far exceeded my expectations and opened my eyes to something of what Christ Jesus meant when he urged obedience to the Commandments, saying, ``Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.''1 This man knows and cares about everyone in the neighborhood. No matter what time it is, he'll help someone with just about anything. I remember one cold November night when I couldn't get our new furnace to operate before I hustled off to a meeting. When I returned, my neighbor was there, fixing the furnace -- he'd just happened by. If our world is to thrive, a new dedication to loving our neighbors seems needed. It can certainly give us pause to ask ourselves, ``Am I really loving my neighbor?''
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of Love: ``What a word! I am in awe before it. Over what worlds on worlds it hath range and is sovereign! the underived, the incomparable, the infinite All of good, the alone God, is Love.'' And she continues: ``Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results.''2
Isn't this the love we are to pour onto our neighbors? It is love that means something to someone, love that has something mighty -- God, divine Love -- supporting it. Think of what Christ Jesus knew about love when he said ``Love thy neighbour.'' He couldn't have said that and not have understood the real, spiritual love that brings healing. As wonderful as Jesus' healing was, however, his real gift to every neighbor is the proof that man is the perfect, spiritual creation of God, who is Love itself.
When we realize that God's love already floods every individual in the spiritual family of man, it can become easier to really love our neighbor. The time to love is always there. When we approach our neighbor on the basis of a loving God caring for His perfect, spiritual man, the opportunities, resources, and time to help in ways that really make a difference will appear. And we'll be enriched by participating in Love's blessing.
Of course, we can busy ourselves with making so many judgments on our neighbor that we never make that leap into real neighborly love. Or we drift into vague philosophical ideas about how best to love a neighbor. Such philosophizing often stops with ``neighbor'' and neglects Jesus command to ``love.'' The prayer that centers on man's perfection as the image of God never stops our own love from naturally spilling over into practical helpfulness to a neighbor. Christ Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan describes three men who came upon a man who had fallen victim to thieves. The first two men shunned involvement, but the third -- the Samaritan -- willingly assumed responsibility for the victim. After Jesus' question ``Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?'' he counseled, ``Go, and do thou likewise.''3
Neighborly love does indeed have a rich tradition in the Bible and Christ Jesus' own work. And with God's love as the basis for our neighborliness, we can find new ways to be good neighbors!
1Matthew 19:19. 2Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 249-250. 3See Luke 10:30-37.