One of the great memories of my childhood is sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ house. My grandmother’s stories of her life and encounters with her neighbors amazed me. The front porch provided a space for neighbors to get to know one another. They would walk by, greet each other, and share stories. Sometimes they would speak to one another from one porch to the other: Someone was sick; sugar was needed; a double shift at work kept someone out late. Neighbors were part of your life, part of your family.
In yesterday’s meditation we found ourselves making sure that we fulfilled the requirements to enter into God’s kingdom. We came questioning, and Jesus reminded us that we knew the requirements; we just had to go do it!
Now we desire reassurance and wonder who our neighbor is. Obviously the legal expert and many of us need a porch!
Jesus challenges us to a standard higher than mere intellectual assent. He asks us to look beyond our prejudices and stereotypes and to act as loving, compassionate, and just people in the world. Belief as intellectual assent does not replace our continued action that leads to transformation.
As an adult I have realized that my grandmother did not necessarily like all her neighbors. Personalities clashed, gossip spread, and feelings got hurt. In the end, though, her neighbors were part and parcel of her identity; the porch provided a place to practice the way of love daily. Heavenly fruit indeed! May we do likewise.
Living God, help us open our hearts to those who live alongside us. May we build porches of transformation as we love the stranger as we love ourselves. Amen.