Two Ways to Love My Neighbor as Myself (Part 2)
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14, ESV).
On a warm day at the beginning of June, with the neighborhood dogs barking incessantly, I walked over to Mary’s house. Brutal beatings by police. Burning cars. Hatred and hubris. What might Mary have to say about all this?
When I start getting agitated, I often head that way. Mary, my mentor, confidante, and closest black friend presides over a spotlessly clean house that somehow exudes peace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in stressed and walked out much calmer. The news events of late May and early June sent me there again.
We talked for a long time. Mary is one of the most beautiful people I know. She has lived through unspeakable racism. Yet, her walk with God is so relevant that she has taken a highroad above her antagonists. There is so much I could say about this, but we only have time for a few of her words.
Mary told me that racism is going to be around until Jesus comes back to take us home. In her opinion, there is no quick fix. But when I pressed her, she gave several ways to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
What I find astonishing is that she did not say that you should invite your neighbors over to your house. No.
“They don’t know what they’re missing to love black me!” Mary expostulated. “And say, we goin’ over to Mary’s house and sit down and have a good old meal and have a nice conversation! They don’t know what they’re missing.”
She suggested to show love to your neighbors, go to their house. Sit down, eat a meal together, have a good conversation.
Is there anything wrong with inviting someone to your own house? Of course not! But in the same way that we like our own home to be well-thought of by others, consider loving your neighbor of a different culture or color in the same way. This, in my experience, is more powerful in establishing community than inviting someone to my house.
Will it always work? No. Might we encounter bed bugs, loose dogs, lots of cat hair? Yes. (Although not at Mary’s house!) Might we be served pig stomach? Sure. But the rewards are worth the risk of trying. Here are some practical tips.
Invite your friend to your house first, if that seems appropriate, but let them see your frayed edges. Note: do not present such perfection that they will feel belittled or inadequate to think of you coming to their house. Sometimes our skill at hospitality becomes the barrier between ourselves and others.
Try a line like this. “I’ve been wanting to spend some time with you and I hear you cook great rice. Could we come try it sometime?” You can offer to bring some food too. Or, “Can I come have a chat with you some day? I’ll bring tea if you have hot water!” Or, skip the food line and just ask if you can stop in sometime. Or, just stop in and see what happens!
Mennonites and Christians in general are great at loving our neighbor by hosting. That is a terrific gift. We are less agile at loving our neighbor by joining their world and respecting them as one of our own.
But I promise you: If you try it, you will not regret it. Take courage!