Jesus said to the lawyer, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:37-39 (NRSV)
For a couple weeks in February, the soundtrack of our lives was the squeal of tires spinning helplessly in the snow outside our house.
One lazy Saturday, still in my pjs at lunchtime, it started again. I took my normal post behind the curtains, peering out to see how bad things were.
Not bad, I thought. By the time I put on hat, gloves, boots, and coat, the car would be out. No point.
But several attempts later, the driver was still stuck. So, of course, I waited a little longer.
Finally, reluctantly, I began to bundle up.
My daughter ran to me screaming, “No, Daddy! You can’t go out there! That’s a stranger!”
I’d been anticipating this since one of her teachers introduced the idea. I had kicked myself for not addressing it sooner, for letting the first word on the subject be fear and mistrust.
“No honey, that’s a neighbor.”
Trudging into the snow, I thought about what to say when I went back in. How to help her parse the distinction. How to balance caution and kindness. When to run away and when to run toward.
I don’t want her to be unsafe. And I don’t want her to be unloving. But I didn’t have the words. How do I teach a child the great commandment in a world like this?
Then I realized: it probably starts by putting my boots on a little faster.
Lover of neighbors, welcomer of strangers, teach me.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.