Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
While on vacation, there was a point where we wanted to load more individuals in our car than usual to go to eat. I never tried fitting that many people in the car and the question was, “Are there enough seat belts?” Fortunately, there were. But I remember as a child that was never a question; we did not use seat belts. Even after they were standard, they were regularly somewhere in the seat cushions, far out of sight.
That habit remained even into young adulthood. That all changed when we had children. They were required to wear seatbelts, so we wore them with the children in the car to set an example. But then, the safety issue also became a factor. The seatbelts were for the safety of the children, but our own safety mattered for the children, as well. We owed our children a more secure future by looking out for our own safety.
Care of others forces us to change ourselves. The question is no more about what I want and my right to make my own decision. It is tempered by considering what my decisions and actions means for others. Love of others changes and affects our actions.
Recently, our Sunday lesson was the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It was told as the summing of the law: “Love your neighbor as yourself’ and the follow up question, “Who is my neighbor?” The parable invites us to expand our concept of neighbor. The center of the story is a Samaritan. The Samaritan was considered an outside form of Judaism and even thought of as a foreigner. Does our concept of neighbor include other faiths and nationalities? Does our concept of neighbor include non-English speakers, Hindi, Muslims, gay people, conservatives, liberals, and so on? Our faith only affects us if we believe only for our own sake. It takes on power when we let it affect others and work for our neighbor, and the wider our sense of neighborhood, the better.
Widen our sense of neighbor. Start by praying for others, especially those we are uncomfortable about. Do not pray for them to change, but pray for their safety and well-being. Pray for the things we all want: safety, peace, health, security, sense of community, self-worth. Broaden our neighborhoods. When we do so, we change ourselves and our faith has the fullest range to change the world.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Martin Horn