Is is possible to love a stranger?
I’ve been thinking about neighbors. Some of the things I have discovered in the past weeks are relevant to a group of folks who are walking the same path I have recently departed.
Do I have a responsibility to them to share the information I now know? Why or why not?
If, as a Christian, I am asked to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27), what do I do with information that could be relevant to them?
Do I keep it to myself because it might cause controversy or make me look foolish?
Do I share it so that anyone who sees it has one more piece of information to sort through and weigh?
Do I trust that if God is calling someone to something, even if it’s different than the calling I have, that He will guide them in the direction of His calling?
Who is my neighbor? Is it the person whose phone number is saved in my contacts? Is it the person who shares membership in a Facebook group? Is it the person who randomly performs a Google search?
What obligation do I have to my neighbor?
Can a neighbor be a stranger?
How do I love a stranger?
I had a lot of fun last summer doing a word study on neighbor. The physical word is broken down into two parts “neigh” and “bor.” These two parts can be roughly translated into the “near worker.”
What was really fascinating to me is that “bor” or “boer” is a word I recognize from the Boer Wars of South Africa. As I understand it, a “boer” in South Afrikaans is a farmer.
What the heck is the “boer” word root in South Afrikaans doing in an English word?! Geographically that’s a crazy amount of distance!
The answer is the Dutch. The Dutch colonized South Africa in 1652 and brought their language with them. The Dutch were also part of the Viking assault that pummeled the shores of the British Isles for centuries. Thus, their word for worker “stuck” in both of these areas.
So we have the same concept, same word, appearing in very, very dissimilar geographies and philosophies, across the world.
Isn’t that fascinating?!
You know what this also tells me? Neighborliness is a basic human concept. It’s not influenced by situations or location…it’s Truth.
And if I follow that thought process out… then my neighbor is anyone and everyone who might find themselves in a situation where the information I have learned might be helpful.
Loving my neighbor means being willing to talk through ideas and issues, come to a reconciliation (remember, my definition of reconciliation is agreement on what came before), and be a part of encouraging them in their walks in the future.
When people say, “Just let it go,” they’re right about the need for folks to move on and allow for time and healing to occur. But, also, those detractors who just want people to be quiet already should recognize that a strong desire to help others is a part of the DNA of many leaders. And they may feel compelled to share, out of a desire to love others well, the pros and cons of what they have experienced themselves.
This quote resonated with me when I saw it this week:
“I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.” Stephanie Sparkles
Eventually the flames of drama will die down. Things will cool, and people will sort through what is left and see what can be salvaged and what must be rebuilt.
And in the meantime, how can we love our neighbors well?