I’m a Navy Brat. When my Dad was stationed at the Air Force base is Keflavik, Iceland, I was 7 years old. We moved there before our home on base was available, so we started out in a duplex off base. Our neighbor was Icelandic. All I know about him was that he spoke English very well, he had a color TV, and he was a (*gasp*) Communist. It’s hard to remember what is was like during the Cold War, when all Communists were The Enemy. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. He was really helpful the day the Yoo Hoo Lady came to call.
It was a Sunday afternoon. My brother and I were playing in house quietly while Mom and Dad took their afternoon nap. For as long as I can remember, Mom and Dad napped on Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t until I grew up that I wondered if they actually slept during their so-called naps. Anyway, this particular afternoon, the quiet was broken by a strange call in the front of the house.
“Yoo hoo!” “Yoo hoo!”
My parents got up to investigate. There was a rather plump Icelandic women inside the front door. She appeared to be intent on rousing the household. Mom whisked my brother and I back into the living room, so I have the rest of the story secondhand.
Daddy was having difficulty understanding the Yoo Hoo Lady, so he went next door for help from Our Neighbor the Communist. It turns out that the Yoo Hoo Lady was drunk, and she came into our house looking for a bathroom. Once Daddy understood, he pointed her to the half-bath in the front hall, and then he and Our Neighbor the Communist helped her to leave when she was done.
We found out later that the customs of hospitality in Scandinavian countries are strong enough that anyone is to be granted entrance to a household if they need to use the toilet. This is why most of the house plans include a half-bath very near the front door.
Hospitality is valued very highly by many cultures, and it especially makes sense in those locales where to deny a guest entrance might mean their death - such as the very cold climes and the very hot, dry climes.
Sodom & Gomorrah
It’s been a while since I listened to a sermon about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, wherein the minister taught that the sin of the city was failing to provide hospitality. This was exemplified by the treatment of the Angels who visited Lot, but I don’t remember exactly how the treatment was a violation of hospitality.
What had always puzzled me was that Gomorrah is always included in the same breath with Sodom, and there is not even a confusing account of how they sinned. I once read a very entertaining essay about how the sin of Gomorrah was Boredom. I don’t remember any more of the details beyond Parcheesi and Charades.
When Christ was asked which is the most important of the commandments, he is said to have chosen Love:
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’"The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31 NLT]
His life was spent illustrating what truly it is to love. He loved without regard to person or sin, accepting and forgiving all who came to Him.
His most difficult teachings were regarding Forgiveness and Tolerance.
He did not withhold forgiveness from anyone, regardless of the depth of their sin. He called on us to do the same. Tolerance? More than that, we are called on to reserve Judgement only to the Lord. Judgement is not merely a selection of punishment. It’s the very definition of whether an act is a sin at all. If we are to leave this judgement to God, then how can we define anyone as a sinner? How do we, mere mortals, dare say that this act or that act is clearly sin or not sin?
Tolerance assumes there is sin to overlook. LOVE denies the action of judgement at all, and simply calls on us to extend understanding. When we draw lines, say that this action can go up to this line and no further, we deny the other our obligation of love. Some folks say “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” What is a higher ideal is to acknowledge any personal bafflement or distaste, acknowledge of hurts, but extend the search for understanding or admit our own limitations. Our own sin.
I may never be able to understand the hearts of those whose acts have caused great pain. That is as much my lack as any insufficiency in their hearts or minds.
What is more wondrous and completely alien from my understanding is the ability of God to do just that. Love the heart of each person, in spite of the brokenness inside.
This has been an entry for The Real LJ Idol writing competition: the Final Season, Topic 13 : Open Topic.