When the biscuits and meat platter disappeared from the dining room table, Mary Elizabeth wondered what was up.
It was the 1930s, and the Great Depression had robbed countless men of their livelihood. Many left home, hopped on boxcars, and traveled from farm to orchard seeking work. The child of a caring minister, my mother later reflected on how often these men found their way to her back door for a handout.
“Turn no one away,” was my grandfather’s directive as he helped his children grasp the enormity of their suffering and exhorted them to show kindness to anyone in need. Perhaps that explains my mom’s affection for Johnny.
With his mop of tousled hair, Johnny bounced up our driveway on his motor bike, the sidecar filled with household items. He wore a jaunty smile and spoke with a lisp. Only a few moments of conversation revealed Johnny was not quite right. I observed with interest the kind way Momma talked with him as with a friend. And she always made a purchase, no matter how small.
Things are different now. Homeless men no longer come for handouts, and the Johnnys of this world are not selling kitchen gadgets door to door. Most people don’t even know their neighbors, much less their sufferings. And what of the beggar at the stop light? Is he truly in need, or am I supporting his addiction—or worse, his business? Loving our neighbor is complicated.
But do changing times relieve us of Christ’s command to love our neighbor? As I type this devotion, I am reminded of a single-parent family nearby. Their yard is not kept, and the children’s clothes are worn. Are they hungry? In need of friendship or practical aid? As I ponder these questions, I remember that Jesus knows the condition of every heart and the pathway of healing.
If you are wondering who your neighbor is and how to help them, join me in this prayer: Loving Father, awaken my heart to the needs of those around me. Give me Your wisdom and compassion that I might know how to best love others with Your extravagant love.
(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)
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