What it means to ‘love thy neighbor’

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International, was in town after Thanksgiving for breakfast with some local supporters. Fuller was a successful businessman and a lawyer who gave it all up for the cause of eliminating all substandard housing in the world. Might as well think big!

Habitat’s motto is “a safe, clean house for everyone.” They started next door. Next fall they will finish replacing the last substandard house in their home county in Georgia. He says Dallas should set a date too.

New Habitat homeowners pay (zero-interest) mortgages. They also earn their house through “sweat equity” — putting in hundreds of hours working on their house and houses for others.

Fuller doesn’t believe in charity. He believes in neighborliness.

He scolded Christians for half-hearted obedience to Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor.” We like to love our generic neighbor. We love our neighbor in theory. We love our theoretical neighbor. Put a real live flesh-and-blood neighbor in front of our noses and we have trouble figuring out how to love that one in practice.

He’s right. My next door neighbor has had a trash pile in his driveway for three months now. I figure he has no interest in clearing it out. Wood, old torn-up bathroom tile, a toilet: looks like a dump. The city truck doesn’t go back there.

So I called the code enforcement people. Better to call them than to walk next door and offer help. I might have to have a relationship then with the kind of person who would leave a trash pile in his driveway.

God doesn’t love the world that way. God might call on angels to deliver messages — warn us of our violations of public decency, cite us for contempt, that sort of thing. Instead, God comes downstairs. Hears our cries. Gets to work on our trash. Offers to restore us to former and future glory.

We’ve made it now to the year 2000. Apocalyptic fears are fading. Computers didn’t turn out to be God or Satan’s tool to bring the end of days. They got our attention though. We read books – even the Bible! All to find out if we the end is upon us.

Maybe we ought to keep it up. Ask ourselves whether we want the end to catch us as clueless about our neighbor’s well-being as we have been till now.

The prophet Micah said that what God requires of us is to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. Jesus said there will be a pop quiz at the Pearly Gates. It will have to do with whether we really loved our neighbor.

He already knows the answer. Maybe we’d better to get to work on it.


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By |2011-02-13T15:30:25-05:00January 1st, 2000|All Columns, Nonprofits and Volunteers, Religion|0 Comments

About the Author:

George Mason
GEORGE MASON is pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church. His monthly Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate column appears in the Worship section, which is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and neighborhood businesses and churches listed in that section. Call 214.560.4202 or email for advertising information.