Last week I found myself in my third least favorite place in the world: Walmart. Maile and I had some time to kill, and we still had a few last minute Easter things to pick up for the kids, so we entered.
I should have known better.
When it was time to check out, I took the five or six items in my cart and made my way to the express check out lane (20 items or less). By that point we were running short on time. Wouldn’t you know it? I found myself behind three people, each with carts full to the brim.
Definitely not 20 items or less.
At one point during checkout, one of the ladies sent her teenage son back into the expanse of Walmart to get something she
had forgotten. The line was 15 people long, at least, a seething caterpillar of silent humanity. I wanted to bash my head against the blue handle of my shopping cart.
* * * * *
One Sunday at church, the sermon was speaking directly to me. I felt this connection between what was being spoken and this inner part of me. Everything the pastor said resonated with me.
Then this couple started whispering to each other in front of me, giggling and playing with each other’s hair and generally making a nuisance of themselves. I wondered if it would be inappropriate for me to use my Bible as a sort of hammer.
Sometimes I think I have anger issues.
* * * * *
These days everyone seems taken with the topic of eternal life: Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” took over the blogosphere for weeks on end, and Harold Campings prediction that the world will end on May 21, 2011 has even been analyzed by CNN. Everyone seems to have their take on when a life beyond this one will begin (if at all), and what it takes to be in good standing when it does (with whoever is in charge at that point).
It reminds me of the question a religious scholar asked Jesus:
“Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
Isn’t that what we’re all really after? Eternal life? Even if you don’t believe in heaven or hell, I’d imagine you are looking for peace and joy and happiness now – a sort of kingdom of God on Earth.
In typical fashion, Jesus replies with a question of his own:
“What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
The man replied, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Do it,” Jesus said, “and you will live.”
“And how do you define neighbor?” the man asked.
That’s really the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Who is our neighbor?
* * * * *
My friend Carmen lives in Kano, Nigeria. This morning her Facebook status was:
“Tears in my eyes. Powerful story. God working in the world.” She linked to a news story entitled: “The Muslim Who Risked All for His Christian Neighbors.” It is a beautiful example of what Jesus was talking about when he told the story of the Good Samaritan.
Who are the “neighbors” that you find the most difficult to love? Someone with a different ethnicity or sexual orientation? Someone who has hurt you in the past? Someone with different political persuasions?
Would it change your perspective on them if you truly believed Jesus’ words, that access to eternal life depended on your ability to love them?