LOVE your neighbor as yourself
I frequently find it difficult to know when and how to love my neighbor as myself.
One Wednesday after work, I was dropping off a fellow employee at his parked motorcycle. Approaching the bike, we saw an old homeless man trying to steal the helmet attached to it. I flew out of the car, hollering threats, and felt like I’d done the right thing when the cowed old guy fearfully ran off, carrying everything he owned in a paper bag.
My friend and I congratulated ourselves on preventing the attempted crime, and agreed on what a jerk the homeless guy was. I drove off, looking forward to going to church that evening. And then my thinking continued, in an internal Q&A format:
“And what will you learn at church tonight?”
“To love my fellow man and help those in need.”
“Oh — kind of like you just did with the homeless man?”
I had no choice. Circling the block, I found the homeless man and called to him to come over (after reassuring him I meant no harm). I told him, “I’m going to church tonight, and if you want to go with my wife and me, you can take a bath at our apartment and I’ll buy you dinner.”
He accepted the offer. He also left a ring in our bath tub so big that it almost took a shovel to clean it out. He wolfed down a large meal, and when he sat down next to me in the pew, he immediately fell into a peaceful sleep, not hearing a word of the service.
Afterwards, I took him to a travelers’ hotel in downtown Atlanta and prepaid 2 nights for him, to give my new friend a brief respite from the streets.
I heard from him one more time, after he’d been arrested for vagrancy. He needed $50 to pay the ticket or would have to work it off with 30 abusive days on a hard-labor road crew. He said he’d give me a $5 repayment at church each week for the next 10 weeks, until it was paid off. I paid his ticket and he was released. I never saw him (or the fifty bucks) again.
What do you think?
Was I loving my neighbor as myself as Jesus teaches, or did I just help a hustler get-over on another “mark”?
Paul White, June 2012
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