As we launched our new series The Art of Neighboring, we talked about the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), or as I like to call it, “The Story of Two Selfish Jerks.” You likely know the story. A traveler is violently accosted by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite pass by and do nothing. The “Good Samaritan” stops and renders aid at great inconvenience to himself. Jesus’ point in the story is that we’re to go and do the same as the Samaritan. The priest and Levite were looking for loopholes. Perhaps they thought, “If the guy is dead and I touch his body, I’ll become ceremonially unclean and have to go through this arduous ordeal to become clean again.” Whatever they were thinking, it doesn’t really matter because they were looking for loopholes to not love their neighbor.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to neighboring, we’re often looking for loopholes. We look for excuses. Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Have you ever met my neighbor? You should. You’d look for a loophole as well. They play their loud music at all hours. They party. They do drugs. They don’t keep up their yard. Their roof is absolutely caked with moss. Their cars are junkers. They’re mean. They’re not interested in God.” On and on we’ll go as we look for loopholes.
Let me tell you about one of my loopholes. My college degree was in horticulture. Basically, I spent four years to learn how to have a nice lawn. And I like a nice lawn. I fertilize it. I weed it. I mow it. I water it. I need a help group. When we lived in Portland, we had a neighbor who let their dog out, and this particular dog loved to come over to my nice lawn and do her business. Now, nobody likes to pick up somebody else’s dog poop. But that’s not what bothered me. It’s when their dog peed in my yard. I always knew exactly where where their dog peed. After a day or two, I’d discover a big, yellow dead spot in my beautiful, green grass. I didn’t blame the dog because that’s what dogs do (and that’s why I don’t own one). But I did blame my neighbor. They were so “thoughtless” that they wouldn’t police their own dog. So I used it as a loophole. I used it as an excuse to not care about or engage them. After all Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself, except when their dog pees in your yard and leaves a big, yellow dead spot in your beautiful, green grass.” I swear that’s somewhere in the fine print.
What loopholes are you looking for so you don’t have to love your neighbors?