George Floyd Was My Neighbor

Reading “Works of Love” by Søren Kierkegaard. 

In the beginning of this book, Søren Kierkegaard gives the most beautifully true and thoughtful exposition to the great command that I’ve ever heard. He spends several chapters taking a close look at “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. I still haven’t finished these chapters, but now seems like the perfect time to begin talking about these ideas.

Yesterday I read the chapter focusing on “neighbor” where Kierkegaard points out that the neighbor is anyone and everyone and is not particularized. A friend or a lover are particularized and therefore fall short of this profound call to love. For you must love all those you encounter with the same care and concern you have for yourself. Love must be free of distinction; for the poor person’s affection for the rich may be to curry favor, while the rich person’s attention to the needs of the poor may be for charity, rather than genuine love. You must not see these distinctions when you love. When Jesus was asked who the neighbor is, he tells the parable of the good Samaritan and those who have most in common with the injured man (shared faith, ethnicity, etc.) do not stop to help but pass by on the opposite side of the road. 

I was taking a walk in our neighborhood with my husband yesterday evening, enjoying an ice cream treat and talking about the above when we found ourselves witness to an arrest. For some reason, I had the thought that perhaps we should stay and make sure the arrested man (who was black) was okay, since the police officer I saw was white. Instead, I thought that it was probably fine; that there was no reason for me to involve myself; that I didn’t know what was going on and might just be needlessly inserting myself. I said and did nothing but literally passed by and forgot about it.

Until this morning. 

That man was George Floyd. 

I forced myself to watch the full 10 minute video of his disturbing and unnecessary death and cried.

This had happened in my neighborhood. This wrong had been committed against my neighbor. I had been there. It’s true that I couldn’t have done anything. Others were on the scene and unable to prevent his death with their protests. But I should have stayed and protested with the others. I should not have been indifferent. I should have seen. I should have loved my neighbor as myself and not crossed by on the other side of the road.

How could I be so blind? How had I failed to love my neighbor while talking about loving my neighbor?

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, police or criminal; gender doesn’t matter; wealth and status don’t matter; we must look past all these externalities and see our neighbor; and more than see, we must love them as our own self.

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