"That's lovely! We have a variety of plans. What do you have in mind?"
"Oh, I don't know. I have just been thinking that I might want to love my neighbor so I was wondering what might be available."
"Well YOU have come to the right place! At Love Your Neighbor, we do have a variety of plans which you might find interesting for loving your neighbor. Are you familiar at all with what we offer?"
"No, not really."
"Well then, let me go through our options! As with any product, some options are more expensive than others. But I am sure we can find something that will work for you."
First is our "Appear to love your neighbor" plan. In this plan, you do things that could cause those around you to think you love your neighbor. We will give you training to say the right things and talk about the right things. You will learn phrases like, "God bless them!" or "I will pray for you!" or even, "There but for the grace of God go I!" Each of these are likely to make those who are observing think that you actually do love your neighbor. All this at no cost to you! We are sure that over time you will feel much better about yourself and others will as well."
"That sounds interesting. God bless you for that plan!"
"HAHA!" He points at her. "You are really getting the hang of loving your neighbor already! Maybe you should consider our next level. The" Open your wallet plan." In this plan, you actually write checks for charitable organizations. That way you can both love your neighbor and get a tax deduction!"
"That one sounds a bit scary!"
"It is by far our most popular plan. Yes, you do have to make a financial investment, but everyone needs tax deductions. You also get praise from those to whom you send money! But I'll tell you the real pay off. When you get your taxes done, people will ask you why you give away that money. And your response, of course, is..."
"I love my neighbor!"
"Correct! AND you never have to have an interaction with someone who would make you feel, you know, uncomfortable."
"Does it matter how much money I give?"
"Well, if you want the tax preparer comment benefit, you probably should give like 5%."
"I think I could do that. Wow! And then I am really loving my neighbor."
"Well yes. Maybe. But there are other plans but most people aren't interested in them. There are stories of people who wanted to know about the other plans, but were not really prepared for the answer when they asked about them. Asking about other plans is pretty scary. Also those plans are kinda expensive."
Hesitation. "Well I do want to know how to love my neighbor. What question do I need to ask?"
"The neighbor question." he responds nervously. "You know the neighbor question."
"What is the neighbor question?"
"Not what, who. The who question."
"Oh, you mean, Who is my neighbor?"
"Are you asking me that question? I can tell you the answer but it is a pretty expensive answer, err plan."
Boldly, "Who is my neighbor?"
"Well since you asked, let me describe the Who Is My Neighbor plan. Well he could be a guy who is disabled by being beaten up or treated badly by other people. Someone with a disability or a mental illness or something like that. You could use plan one for that kind of person, but if people find out, you won't be though well of. People won't think you really love your neighbor. So under this plan, you do things like take emotional risks, spend your time helping the person, visiting them to be sure they are OK. You also do a lot of plan two. It IS expensive."
"Wow that is expensive. But at least the people get better, right?"
"Well, maybe." Shakes his head. "Could be you help them and they don't get better. Could be they stay the same or get worse. But you wanted to know how to love your neighbor, and who your neighbor was so I told you. Loving your neighbor is not about if the person gets better, it is about what you do."
"Wow! Then that is really expensive. I guess thats the highest plan, huh?"
"You might think so, but not really. Nobody ever gets past plan three. I'll tell you, they tiptoe around that plan and go back to plan one or two. But there is a plan four. I have never seen anyone buy it so it is a bit of a mystery to us here at Love Your Neighbor."
"What is it?"
"Sell everything you have and give it to the poor." He blurts out and coughs. "Most people when they hear that go away sad. They say they want to love their neighbor but when they find out the cost of doing it, well, I don't know. I guess they just figure it isn't worth it. But I am also not sure that plan is for everyone. I am totally sure plan three can be done by just about anybody. They just have to have the desire to do it."
"You know, its funny. People don't really expect me to love my neighbor. If I say nice things they get kinda surprised. If I give my money, they can't believe it, or talk about how they wish they could do that too. But if I were to really choose a couple of people as my friends and really enter their lives. I think I could love them, but they might also learn to love me. I might help to lessen their difficulties, but they would also help me too, in ways I probably don't know about because I haven't tried to love my neighber in a plan three kind of way."
"Well just be careful about what you commit to. Please don't expect too much."
"Huh? Now you kinda sound like my pastor."
A friend of mine, Toby Hoff once shared a Steve Camp lyric with me that guided him. It says,
"Don't tell them Jesus loves them till you're ready to love them too."