Could you walk a straight line blindfolded? I’ve never tried it myself, and I’m not willing to experiment when I could fall and hurt myself, so I was glad the Mythbusters were willing to find out. Adam and Jamie tried to do it three different ways: walking, swimming, and driving without visual cues. It never worked. They even tried being blindfolded simultaneously and carrying a ladder between them so they could correct each other. Nope, that didn’t work either.
Then they checked if they could navigate their way through unfamiliar terrain in a straight line, and that was possible. Putting a bucket over their heads to limit field of vision was a challenge unless you were really alive to limited info.
Jesus gives us a straight line to walk. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is pretty direct, although Jesus will define neighbor rather broadly in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s nothing new to his audience; Leviticus 19:18 has the command to “love your neighbor” and Rabbi Hillel cited “do not do to another that which you yourself find hateful.” It also appears in almost every religion on earth. The only thing we need to navigate is what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves, and there’s a lot of potential for misinterpretation here.
One problem is we can have a hard time knowing how our actions affect others. We can be blind to so many things, including the consequences of what we say and do. Our good intentions can lead us in circles, our desire to be good to others can get translated into blind self-interest fairly easily. This is one reason we need each other in our journeys of faith, why we need someone to share with and help us with our path. Working together is about sharing vision, which can keep us on a straight path.
One thing that isn’t spoken often enough is that this teaching should be the standard of all our attitudes, all our actions, all our policies and all our laws. Any teaching that calls itself Christian that isn’t in line with love of neighbor is wrong. Any interpretation of doctrine, any interpretation of Canon Law that isn’t in line with love of neighbor is wrong. Anything that limits who our neighbors are is a denial of the centrality of love of neighbor. When asked who his neighbor was, Christ gave the example of someone universally hated in Jewish culture, a Samaritan, someone considered less than human by his audience.
When we walk away from love of neighbor, we blind ourselves. When we choose not to see of our neighbors around us, we lose our way, we lose Christ. When we choose blindness out of fear, greed, self-gratification, frustration, then our lives travel in aimless circles, like any other person trying to travel in a straight line blindfolded.
Responding to this call can take great creativity and great courage, but that’s what Christ calls us to. Christ doesn’t leave us alone with this, doesn’t say “do this” and walk away. Christ comes to us every week in the Eucharist, every day in the stillness of our hearts, to guide us in this challenging standard. When we open our hearts of love and service of our neighbors, whoever they may be, we can be sure Christ will fill us to overflowing, Christ will guide us on the straight path to the place we are meant to be.