If you’ve been around a Christian church for very long, you’ve heard that when Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he said there were two.
That was a pretty big claim, since the Law of Moses contained 613 laws. But Jesus said the first command was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. He said all the other laws depended on doing those two things.
Later on in the New Testament, the First Letter of John says, “those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
All of us, every day, are presented with opportunities to love our neighbors in very simple, very practical ways. We can greet the person at the cash register with a smile and kind word. We can pay attention to someone who needs a hand. We can get to know our neighbors. We can clear the snow from our sidewalks.
Since my office at church is downtown, I notice people walking in the downtown area. I notice how many people walk in the street in the winter because the walks are not cleared.
I notice especially people with baby strollers or shopping carts or wheelchairs in the street in the winter because they cannot use the sidewalks. Someone was killed in Erie Boulevard last winter in an area where there is no sidewalk and nowhere to walk except the street.
In the summer, the same people with strollers, shopping carts, and wheelchairs are in the street in places where the sidewalks are broken and heaved, where the curbs are not cut, where people leave garbage cans and debris in the sidewalk.
We can do better than this. Love of neighbor invites us to pay attention to the needs of those who have to walk where they go because they can’t afford a car, people who live in apartments downtown and have to walk to Tops and the street corners are not cleared where the snowplows have been at work.
The City of Rome has laws about keeping sidewalks safe and clear. But even if the City of Rome does not enforce those laws, we can love our neighbors.
Those laws depend on loving our neighbors. We can replace broken walks. We can keep the snow and ice cleared. We can provide hospitality for people who walk past. We can notice and love our neighbors.
I guess Jesus never used a snow shovel or a snowblower. But if he had lived in Rome, New York, he would have! And he would have been out there walking along the walks, giving a hand to the people who have to walk every day.
“...those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”