Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Love Thy Neighbor

In America, we love our heroes! But, not all heroes become famous, even in this media driven culture of ours. Several weeks ago, my students quizzed over Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan. It brought to mind this entry, from 1-3-06, based on a trio to St. Louis to see my folks. I know you will see the same heroic characteristics in Stephen Koch as others have.

A very loud siren sounded about 5:15 this morning. Stormy weather coupled with a siren is never good news. I flipped on the television and all the stations were running the familiar streamer at the bottom of the screen: St. Louis and St. Louis County remain under a tornado watch until 5:45 a.m. Most alarms turn out to be false so I climbed back under the covers and returned to nocturnal bliss.

There was a wonderful story in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On December 1st, a pre-dawn fire broke out in a Wentzville subdivision. A neighbor, alerted by his barking dog and clad only in shorts, t-shirt, and socks, raced back and forth between the affected houses to warn the families of the danger. Everyone was able to evacuate safely. What was unique about this story was not the fire but the man sounding the alarm. Stephen Koch survived Hodgkin's disease as a teen, has a regenerating spinal tumor, and in mid-November suffered a major heart attack. Barely able to climb stairs, Koch put the welfare of his fellow man before his own health. Returning to his home after his early morning Paul Revere imitation, Stephen Koch collapsed on his back porch. Rushed to the hospital, the diagnosis was this Good Samaritan, besides enduring minor burns, had suffered yet another major heart attack! As he has made a habit of in his forty-two years, Koch survived and achieved hero status in his community. Last week, the mayor of Wentzville recognized Koch in a special ceremony with these words: "His actions were truly heroic. His commitment to life and to his neighbors and to the safety of others is exemplary." Let me rephrase the good mayor's proclamation in my own diction: I wish that guy was my neighbor! But I can get even closer to the heart of the matter: I wish I was as good a neighbor as that guy!

When asked the greatest commandments, Jesus summarized the law succinctly by stating "Love the Lord" and "Love your neighbor." The religious world does not always validate its beliefs by its practices. In 1965, Barry McGuire indicted many in his protest anthem,
Eve of Destruction, with the line, "hate your next door neighbor BUT DON'T FORGET TO SAY GRACE!" It's hard to believe anyone could fulfill the teachings of Jesus more ably than Stephen Koch did that December morning. He viewed his neighborly duty as being a human siren. That's not always easy to do. We might willingly fix a flat tire but we are hesitant to interfere with other people's business. In Ezekiel, the Lord exclaims that watchmen who don't warn of danger will be held accountable for resultant bloodshed. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not teach it's wrong to remove specks from brothers' eyes- he tells us to remove the plank from our eye first so we'll have the capacity to help our brother. Part of Christian living is holding each other accountable. In coaching, an extra set of eyes can be invaluable. I used to ask opposing coaches for the scouting report on my high school team because I tend to get blinded to our tendencies. In the same way, perhaps I can't see what is going on in my own life. Maybe my spiritual house is burning down and I'm asleep. If I am blessed, the Lord will send a Stephen Koch to wake me up! I hope so- I'm a pretty sound sleeper!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Your own safety is at stake when your neighbor's house is in flames."

God bless,
Luke 18:1


E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com


Devin Turner said...

Hey Coach i'm the first to comment yay!

Jennifer B said...


It's so good of you to mention Steve again. It was my next door neighbor's home that caught on fire and then started the fire at my home. I actually found Steve collapsed on my back patio when we were trying to evacuate our house. I shared this story with our church where your parents attended.

Steve passed away about a year ago, his health had been deteriorating and he was in constant pain until the end. He leaves behind a wife and a fabulous legacy to all the families that he has touched. The children especially lost a kind and generous man that always wanted to serve others while enduring constant agony, whether it be giant candy bars at Halloween, presents at Christmas, or trying to mentor a teenage boy without a strong father figure. He will be missed.