For five years, I was president of a small Christian boarding school in Appalachia. On one occasion, I had the distinct (with the emphasis on “stinked”) privilege of dealing with raw sewage seeping through the basement walls of one of the campus buildings, an old parsonage.
In the mid-1930s a group of men building the parsonage began laying a cinder block septic tank for the house. Being committed, as many building committees are, to the long-lost eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt save money whereverest thou canst,” these resourceful men took their shot at making the Guinness Book of World Records under “Ways to Cut Corners to Save Money.” They used a foundation wall of the house as one of the septic tank’s four walls! If that doesn’t immediately strike you as problematic, think about it for a minute. We tend to think of neighbors in geographic terms—someone who lives beside you or nearby. We’d never think of dumping sewage in a neighbor’s basement. Yet that’s effectively what the corner-cutters did. We may never bump into them, but they’re just as close to us in time as our next-door neighbor is to us in location. The things we do today will directly affect those who immediately follow us.
We don’t do a very good job thinking about those chronological neighbors. We wouldn’t dream of taking our trays of wrappers and scraps, dumping them on the table of the people eating lunch beside us, and saying, “We don’t feel like dealing with this. You take care of it.” Yet that is just what we do to our neighbors in time whenever we leave a mess for other people to clean up or a problem for other people to solve. How is that loving your neighbor?
Over the next three days, we’ll look at different ways that we can care for our chronological neighbors by choosing to not scrimp, not dip, and do protect.