Just when I think I understand “loving your neighbor as yourself,” a new lesson is before my eyes. I was in a village in Zambia during the HIV/AIDS crisis and the number of orphans per village was overwhelming to me. Many times, children outnumbered adults in the community three times over, with the adults working hard to take care of all the children.
Early one morning I observed one of the faithful mothers in the village at the crack of dawn out in a small garden area attempting to plant some eggplant. The ground was very hard. The rains, though expected, had not come. Her slim hands surrounded a small spade as she worked to crack the ground in order to place this fledgling plant in the soil. It took much longer than she anticipated and she trudged in that space for a couple of hours. I learned from others in the community that, when she finally finished with the eggplant, now she needed to spend about six hours gathering food from other places to feed her family and those for whom she was caring. Tears came to my eyes. She was thin herself, and keeping her family and others alive was uppermost on her mind. Yes, she was planting for the future, but she also had immediate life and death to consider.
That day again the words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke flooded my mind – “Love your neighbor as Yourself.” What does that even mean?
Love means sharing.
Love means caring.
Love means understanding.
Love means empathy.
Love means listening.
Leave means respect.
Love means learning from one’s neighbor.
Love means not forgetting.
Love means not ignoring.
The list can go on.
On the flip side is how NOT to love your neighbor as yourself! I have found it is easy to pass judgment when there is no responsibility. Also, ignoring and only focusing on oneself is another way in which to not love. Again, this list could go on.
Scene from the Zambian countryside
But the bottom line of Jesus’ teaching is that our lives are much richer as we embrace our neighbor. We are expanded, and love develops more and more capacity within us to be expressed.
I am happy to report that World Hope International worked with the village where I met this faithful mother and placed a well there – which meant she was able to have simple irrigation for her garden. Soon her garden flourished and she no longer had to walk miles to gather food but could instead go directly to her garden. She and her children and those children for whom she was also caring quickly became much healthier.
There is another facet about “Loving your neighbor as yourself,” and that is to love your neighbor even if you have never met them.
The cost of placing the well in this woman’s village was covered by people on the other side of the world who had never met her, had never even visited her community, but were following the words of Jesus and said, “Yes, we will follow and love our neighbor as ourself.”
I’ve seen this happen thousands of times at World Hope International through the years and I watch as it continues to do so. I am so grateful to each of you who have found the capacity and the courage to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Together, we can be always learning and always loving one another, committed to and invested in the world as God intended.
Today, World Hope International is working in 20+ countries around the world to provide those in need with opportunity, dignity, and hope so they can possess the tools for change in themselves, their family and their community.
To support these efforts, you can make a gift to The Hope Fund, which allows us to respond where and when it matters and continue projects centered on clean water & energy, protection, global health, and social enterprises.