“Love your neighbor as yourself.”.’
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
These are not very popular words today, in public, or in the boardroom. They weren’t very popular 2000 years ago either, not in the synagogues and temple screaming for the Romans’ heads, nor in the Roman Empire. Think about it. Do you cheer when those with whom you disagree are destroyed, penniless, left hopeless and abandoned? Or, better yet, would you be like the religious lawyers who posed the question to Jesus, thinking to yourself, ‘They don’t live in MY neighborhood.’ and asking: ‘Who is my neighbor?’. 2000 years ago, it was straightforward, and just as radical today: ‘The one who shows mercy.’
When was the last time you showed mercy – to anyone? Was it shared with an enemy, someone you don’t respect, someone you scorn and despise, someone who dismissed you or hurt you, no matter how justified you may have felt? Look around you. It doesn’t matter if you are at work, in your car, a store, a parking lot, a sidewalk, a cafe. Or, better still, look around you – online. Did you just really contribute to that online flame war? Were you trolling for a fight? Or worse, were you looking to completely crush an opponent in an online debate? Or worse yet, have you written off anyone online, regardless of age, web site, religion, creed, no creed, color, nationality, or economic status?
Every day, I hear adults complain about how useless and worthless today’s younger generations (myself included) are for wasting time online. I am aghast every time I hear this. I have many meaningful interactions and discussions online. I read – a lot. Anyone online, reads, a lot. There’s no difference between what printed copy on paper says as compared to what is printed/displayed on my screen. There’s also no difference between the reality of a person speaking with me face to face versus the reality of the person whom I communicate with online. The emotional impact can be even more devastating online.
Sometimes, the only way to communicate is online. My strong preference is for face to face. However, I don’t shy away from meaningful, respectful, thoughtful, considered online communication, somewhat of an exception online, as in real life these days. If someone is none of these, look past it. There’s ALWAYS a reason why, ALWAYS. That’s not to say you should become an online doormat. Read, observe, think, think again, then, don’t jump in yet. It’s rarely what it seems to be.
So, in the interests of discovery, I suggest: look around you, both physically and online. Now, read the following paragraph, slowly. Think about each sentence fragment. They are real web log titles, titles of posts, articles, and thoughts, all from real people. These have been curated, neither scraped, nor parsed with a script – some quite simply raw with emotion – all of them, very, real. They represent a spectrum of expression from real people, teenagers to the elderly, new moms to great grandmothers, boys, men, fathers, geeks, and grandfathers – all of them, in some form or fashion as they have come across my personal blog.
Keep this in mind as you read. After you finish this next paragraph, a collection of sentence fragments, each one the title of someone’s personal blog. Repeat each fragment slowly in your mind, thinking about each one, ask yourself: ‘Who is my neighbor?’. Then, look around. Where ever you find yourself, that online writer may very well be, the person next you. Did you show us mercy? Did you show us love? We are your neighbors, online and in person, no matter where we are – ALL of us. We all have something to say. We all want to be heard, understood, and treated with respect. Are you listening? Open your ears, and your eyes. We are, after all, your neighbors – in person, AND online:
No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation with the divine: Trust steadily in Love, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.