There is no more patriotic American than my wife. She takes every opportunity to display our flag prominently in the front of our home, a task she joyfully executed again this week.
I thought about that fact recently as I was jogging in our neighborhood and passed a Jaguar parked on the street. It is often there, a consistent opportunity for me to break the Tenth Commandment. If I owned a Jaguar, I would not park it on the street. However, my neighbors would not then know that I owned a Jaguar. Perhaps its owner is as proud of his car as Janet is of our flag, though for less commendable reasons.
There are other ways to frustrate your neighbors. Consider the resident of Bethel, Alaska behind a hoax that has made national headlines. The town of 6,200 people is 40 miles inland from the Bering Sea in far western Alaska. Its only fast food restaurant is a Subway sandwich shop.
When flyers went up announcing the coming of a Taco Bell store, people were elated. The ads included a phone number to call to inquire about a job at the new restaurant. It turns out the ad was a hoax—the number belonged to a person in Bethel being targeted by whoever initiated the scam.
Taco Bell executives learned of the hoax and arranged an enormous feast for Bethel. They flew enough ingredients from Anchorage to make 10,000 tacos, and gave them to the community for free. I suppose all’s well that ends well.
When Jesus chose Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself,” as the second “great commandment” (Matthew 22:39), he intended far more than meets the eye. The Jews who heard his pronouncement were familiar with the chapter in which that phrase is located. It includes imperatives to respect your parents (v. 3), leave food for the poor and alien (v. 4), do not steal or lie (v. 11), do not defraud your neighbor or an employee (v. 13), do not mistreat the deaf or blind (v. 14), do not pervert justice (v. 15), do not spread slander or do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life (v. 16), do not hate your brother, but rebuke your neighbor frankly for his sins (v. 17), and do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against others (v. 18a). In summary, “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18b).
Take a moment to measure your relationships by these imperatives. Would your neighbors say that you love them?