When the legalists asked Yeshua (more familiarly known in English as Jesus) what the greatest commandment was, he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength.” Then he followed up with this, “The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

But who is my neighbor?

When asked to identify his neighbor, Yeshua responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. There’s no need for Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) to recount it here. You know it. If you don’t, google it.

In our time, it wouldn’t be a Samaritan because we are far removed from those days of Roman-occupied Palestine and the prejudices of the day that colored the relations between the people that lived in the land.

In our day, the Parable would relate how a Black person pulled over on the interstate to tend to an accident victim and the white people whizzed by. GOT has seen this during his lifetime.

The point is love. Where has the love gone? Many trot out judgment and justify it with appeals to a complex collection of history, poetry, and prophecy that often disagrees with itself. Many have spent their lives in study and intepretation. But the Gospel command to love is clear; without that, your theology doesn’t matter, your morality is insignificant, and your spluttering outrage on every social media channel will not save you from Dante’s Inferno … exactly what circle are you in?

Where is the love? Where is the caring support for children working out their identity issues as they navigate their teen years? What of your beliefs or your principles, your theology or your exegesis? It does not matter. The command is clear: LOVE.

Schools were created with an educational mission. They must be places of learning, first of all for basic literacy and numeracy, then for citizenship and the responsibilities thereof, and finally, for understanding the world in which we live in all its dimensions: natural, scientific, social, political, and historical.

But for any of that to take place, schools must first be places of safety and needs fulfillment. That is why we feed children, why some schools launder children’s clothes, and why we work to stop bullying and other forms of misbehavior.

When schools are doing their job well, they are often the first places children look to as a refuge from the traumas inflicted upon them. But we don’t have to be so dramatic. Children often have a trusted adult at school in whom they will confide. It doesn’t mean they have a bad parent at home.

GOT was cheap in his teenage years (still is, but that’s beside the point.) He never bought a pen or pencil because he realized that his peers dropped them all over the school all the time. By keeping his eyes on the floor, GOT ended a school year with dozens of pencils and pens in his supply box.

Not all of them were usable. One day, GOT arrived home and dumped his books into the dining room chair set aside for the purpose. He pulled his pen out of his pocket and dropped it on the buffet (a piece of furniture) beside the chair. The next morning, the pen had leaked onto the surface and the ink had eaten a gouge into the wood.

Horrified, GOT put a piece of paper over the damage and beat it out of the house, but all day, he stewed about the coming confrontation. What will happen when Mom finds out?

Finally, coming home on the bus, GOT decided to ‘fess up. Better to get it over with than waiting till Mom found out.

When he came into the house, GOT found his Mom and told her he had to show her something. What happened next surprised that immature, adolescent soul.

“Thank you for telling me. Let’s clean it up. I’m sure the buffet can be repaired. Actually, the damage is not that bad.”

GOT remembers the angst of that day. Looking back, it is astounding how trivial a leaking pen is next to the struggles of an adolescent working through their sexual identity. How much more might such a teenager be frightened to talk to their parents?

That’s the point. The parental fear that many teens feel even though the emotion says nothing about the parent. Our first and only concern when it comes to teenagers is to ensure that they feel loved, that they are cared about, that they have a safe place even if they are wrong about their home.

Some of them are not wrong. Some do endure a lifetime of parental rejection, read into this link for Echo’s story. In GOT’s city, here’s another story from four years ago.

What about principles, morals, and religious beliefs? GOT is not addressing those. This is not about a debate in the pews, the courthouse square, or the internet shouting-fest. By the way, don’t think this piece reveals anything about GOT other than that the O is real and he feels a weariness about snarling that only happens when we forget that real flesh-and-blood are involved.

Where is the love? Why does our society fall into a moral plane where everyone has an opinion and deals out death and judgment to all who disagree?

“The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

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