I spent my boyhood years living on two acres just outside of Dallas, Texas. I was the youngest of six kids. We had peach trees, lots of grass, a huge garden, and sometimes a cow and calf. That was all fine except for our neighbors! From my earliest memory, I knew to stay away from the neighbors on both sides of our house. My dad had warned me to stay out of their yards and fields. If my ball ever went over the fence, I was to leave it there. Under no circumstances was I to cross over onto the neighbor's property. I don't know what was actually said, but the strong implication was that torture or death could result from being caught on that alien soil by those terrible people.

No one would ever tell me what had caused the great rift between my father and each of the neighbors. I thought it must be because it was so terrible and painful. I later decided it was probably because no one could remember.

I may have been nine or ten when my new baseball went over the fence. I was sad, angry, and terrified. I can remember standing at the fence looking at my ball and working out a rescue operation. I knew the dangers were very high. I mean, these were terrible people! Who could know what the consequences of such an operation might be? The problem was, I really loved that ball and I had no resources to buy another one. I was fast and nimble and figured I could be over the fence and back before the neighbor could see me, get his gun and come out the door. I executed the plan and survived! Amazing! Over the next few months, I had occasion to jump the fence for various reasons. On one of those excursions, my neighbor opened his door and said that I was welcome to use the gate and come in the front way. He and I began to wave at each other and even speak words of greeting.

About that time, I seized an opportunity when our other neighbor was working outside, and went over and introduced myself to him. I asked him if my ball ever accidentally went in his yard, would it be ok for me to come and get it. He assured me that it would be fine.

Once my dad saw my growing comfort with these men who lived next to us, he gradually began to wave at them and even to greet them from time to time. The people who lived near us were transformed from dangerous "others" to pleasant neighbors.

Here is my point. Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is everybody else. Please, please don't judge your neighbor. Get to know them and open up for understanding and friendship. If they are just like you, it will be easier. If they are another race or religion or live far away, it will be more difficult. Our world is in terrible peril because we are not loving our neighbors. A few of our neighbors are mean, evil, and dangerous. They are in the minority and should be condemned by all people of faith and conscience. Everyone else should receive the benefit of the doubt and we should obey Jesus and treat everyone in the way that we want to be treated. We do not have the right to group people by race or religion or citizenship and judge them or reject them or even fear them. That is what the Bible calls sin.

Here is Jesus' summary plan . . . . Love God and love people. Love God and love people.

Peace on Earth,