Little over a year ago, I heard a sermon by the Reverend Jacqueline Lewis, Senior Pastor of Middle Collegiate Church. And what she talked about, what it means to love your neighbor. And she told a story that I rabbi had told her about how loving your neighbor means loving your neighbor’s cow. The rabbi said loving your neighbor is when you see your neighbor Sam’s cow out, you don’t say, “Ooh, Sam’s cow got out. That’s too bad.” You don’t go, “Hmm. That might not even be Sam’s cow at all.” You also don’t say, “Sam should have known better than to let his cow get out.” To love your neighbor means to love your neighbor enough, to go out and get the cow out of trouble, to bring it back where it belongs.
In this time of COVID-19, we are all being challenged. We are all being inconvenienced. We are all grieving. We are all struggling, because life as we are used to living it is different. And yet we, as Christians, are called by this commandment to love God, to love our neighbor and to love ourselves. And to love our neighbor means being willing to be inconvenienced, to love our neighbor means being willing to go the extra mile.
In the words of one of my colleagues, the placing of the good of others before ourselves is at the heart of Christian understanding of relationship. We learn this from God. In bringing creation into being, God took a huge risk. Would we fulfill our vocation or would we fail? And when we indeed did fail in our original vocation, God placed our good above even the divine life, giving himself into the hands of those who could and did kill him.
What does it mean to love your neighbor? It means being willing to protect your neighbor from yourself, wearing a mask when it feels silly and inconvenient and uncomfortable. It means going the extra step because that’s what love demands.
In this time of COVID-19, where our divisions may seem larger than ever, where our struggles and frustrations are so very real, let us never forget that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to love our neighbor.