We were having a meeting on our back porch. Most of us had gathered, and as we waited for the rest of the team, a stranger strolled up. Uninvited. Right to the edge of the porch. I’d never seen him before, and frankly, he made me nervous.
He was brash and bold. I walked up to him, and he stood his ground. I was within two feet of him as we had a staring contest. I was somewhat intimidated; he came up to my shoulder with a long, curved beak and strong, wide wings.
It was a wood stork, a large bird that we don’t often see on or around our pond. He was not bothered by my presence at all. The only time he backed off was when I began clapping my hands.
Obnoxious and loud worked.
He came back.
We continued with our meeting; he stayed for about twenty minutes. As if he was intrigued by what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it. I’d watch him at times, wondering what was going on in his bird brain that gave him the freedom and the desire to come so close to a group of people.
There were characteristics of that wood stork that I admired, qualities I wish I had in greater quantity. His fearlessness in approaching creatures very unlike him. His boldness in being present. His courage to watch what he was not a part of.
It made me wish I talked bird.
There are many in our world who have that sense of bravery, of choosing to involve themselves with people very different from themselves, to be present and listen to what they may not understand or agree with. People who are personally fearless because the ultimate good is of greater value than appearances.
It may seem strange to compare myself to a bird but in our culture today we dismiss one another as easily as we dismiss a winged creature that doesn’t hold any significance for us. If the language isn’t what we want to hear, if the message isn’t exactly what we agree with, it’s easier to reject those who aren’t in accordance with us than embrace them in their differences.
The people of Jesus’ time were very much like this. The Romans dismissed the Jews as being insignificant, a people who’d they’d taken over with their superior power and pushed around and abused. The Jewish leaders took advantage of the servitude of those Jewish people under their authority, heaping more laws on them than anyone could conceivably follow.
Jesus entered this picture, a world of divisiveness and turmoil, of injustice and injury. He preached a gospel of hope, forgiveness, and unity, challenging people to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and also love their neighbors as themselves.
When asked who a neighbor was, Jesus shared a parable that spoke of a neighbor being someone who was very different from us, who wasn’t always seen as equal to us.
Everyone is our neighbor.
The valid question to ask ourselves is how do we treat everyone else, not just those like us? Do we know how to be a neighbor?
Reality–all of humanity are our neighbors.
All deserve love.