"Which is greener – sun or tree?" headlined a story that ran last week in this newspaper. The article explained, "The Solar Shade Control Act went unnoticed for 30 years, but since December it has come up in several lawsuits…"
The article featured a case in Santa Clara County, Calif., in which a man installed solar collectors on the trellis behind his house, but in order for them to effectively absorb the sunlight, something had to be done about the redwood trees in his neighbor's yard. When his neighbors wanted to keep their trees, the disagreement eventually turned into a lawsuit.
While the conflict between solar panels and shade trees is relatively new, neighbors having conflicting interests is not. And even conflicts about how trees grow in one another's yards have been around for years. Yet, so has the age-old Scriptural instruction, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Can it still effectively address the complexity of contemporary disputes such as this one?
Two thousand years ago, that biblical command was spelled out in response to a questioner, asking which is the greatest commandment. The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus' answer: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (22:37-39).
It's interesting that to love one's neighbor is not the first but the second commandment. Yet, as Jesus said, it's like the first.
Many have found that trying to love one's neighbor – those next door or at the next desk – is not always the easiest thing to do. Keeping the two commandments in their proper order, however, can assure the fulfillment of both, for a heart filled with love for God naturally overflows. Maintaining and increasing our love for God demands an ever-enlarging understanding of our divine Creator.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote a platform – a statement of teachings – to explain her religious views. Early in this explanation she wrote, "God is what the Scriptures declare Him to be, – Life, Truth, Love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 330).
Understanding God to be Life indicates that we have much in common with others. There isn't one's own life and a different source of being for others. The one Life, God, is our source, and we can see evidence of this one Life reflected in all. Sometimes it may seem hard to discover this reflection, but the more we know about the original, God, the better able we are to recognize His-Her qualities reflected. God, as Truth, reveals the permanence of all that is good. Just as truth never changes, all that God, good, is doesn't change. Understanding this, we realize the permanence of good in our neighbor, as well as in ourselves, and can get past a mistake on either side.
That God is Love assures us that all creation is loving and lovable. Divine Love is all-inclusive. No one is left out. Knowing this, we can expect fear and distrust to have no place in neighborly relations. Further on, the Platform of Christian Science includes this statement: "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (Science and Health, p. 332). Knowing God to be the true parent of each one of us, we are no longer just neighbors but equally loved brothers and sisters.
I will give them an heart
to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7