By Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission
I met a guy named Dan who has been taking Jesus’s command to love his neighbor seriously. You probably remember the story about the religious leader who asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus told him; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:29-31.
Most of us interpret Jesus’s command to love our neighbor metaphorically. So we discuss our metaphorical neighbors. And we pray for our metaphorical neighbors. But the truth about metaphoric neighbors is that they are just so, well, they are metaphorical. They symbolize people we never meet, or talk with, or get to know.
What if we took Jesus’s command seriously and actually loved the real neighbors next to us? What if we made it a point to learn the name of every neighbor we share a fence with or who lives across the street from us? What if we intentionally got to know them and their families? What if we cared enough to learn what makes them glad and what makes them sad?
Well Dan decided to take Jesus seriously and started to get to know his neighbors. One of his neighbors, named Ken, managed a mobile home park. Ken told Dan that the homes in the park were run down and needed significant repairs. But the people living there couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs, and the owners of the park didn’t have the money to repair the homes either. So Ken felt helpless and desperate because there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When Dan heard Ken talk about this and saw how it hurt Ken, Dan decided to help. So he recruited a whole bunch of volunteers and organized a day where they all showed up and fixed everything that was broken or run down. Dan’s crew repaired and stained decks, painted walls, fixed railings, patched roofs and installed new plumbing. They raised all the money they needed for the work and they got it all done in one day. The people in the Mobile Home Park were totally surprised that anyone would do this for them. Ken couldn’t believe it either and was really, really thankful for his neighbor Dan.
One of the coolest things though was what happened after the work day. Some of the volunteers asked Dan when they could do it again. One thing led to another and they started a group called the Neighborhood Rehab Project. You can find them on line at www.beatool.org. That’s right. Be a tool. And when you check out their website you can either “Be a Tool” or “Donate a Tool” or let them know “I Need a Tool”. You can also watch the video of this story.
It all started when Dan decided to really love his neighbor, initiated a conversation and learned managing a rundown mobile home park broke Ken’s heart. So Dan rallied some friends, raised some money, and had a great adventure that transformed a bunch of people into tools. And now they have great friendships and are changing their neighborhood.
We may not all start a new organization. But really loving your neighbor is a great way to start an adventure and show God’s love.