By Pete Ahlstrom
One day my mother helped throw her littlest brother out of the haymow.
The haymow, a hay storage area high up under our barn’s roof, was one of the five farm kids’ favorite play places.
The farm cats loved the haymow, too. There, they could run, jump, and chase each other to their hearts’ content. That day, as they frolicked, one of them misjudged the edge and fell out. The youngsters watched, fascinated, as it twisted, turned, somersaulted, and finally landed on its feet, unhurt, on the wooden "driveway" two stories below!
"Did you see that?" the kids asked. Their next question was perfectly logical (well, almost): "Do you suppose a person could land on his feet like that?"
The four oldest kids could only think of one way to find out. They grabbed their youngest brother’s arms and legs, dragged him kicking and screaming to the edge, threw him out, and watched to see what would happen.
Two things happened. First, Gilbert did not land on his feet. Second, it was about two weeks before any of the four older children could sit down again!
That all-too-true incident underscores the Bible’s emphasis on "love your neighbor."
Because any of us can get "thrown out of the haymow" at any time. Sickness, accidents, divorces, natural disasters, wars, or crimes can do it.
We try to solve those problems ourselves. But sometimes, as with Gilbert, a "safe landing" just isn’t possible. The Bible teaches we’re to be there to pick each other up, help mend any broken bones, and get each other back on our feet, healed.
I went to church for many years without ever understanding what the Bible meant by "love your neighbor." Finally, I learned it isn’t about feeling love; it’s doing it. Love means to help, to be kind, to give, to visit, comfort, and encourage, to show each other courtesy, patience, forgiveness, and mercy. We’re to do that for our own families, for the poor, immigrants, orphans, widows, and single mothers, for the sick, handicapped, prisoners, lonely, and elderly, for government workers, Christians from other churches, and even our enemies. We’re to help with needs they can’t meet, like food, clothing, housing, jobs, money, and justice.
Is it important? God sees how much we love him by how much we love our neighbors! Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
Biblical love is selfless. It means asking, "If Jesus were sick, out of work, hungry, or homeless, how would I help him?" It means walking where others walk. It means learning the real needs of our real neighbors. Above all, it means doing.