2014-02-26 - Love your Neighbor
The term neighbor, as described by dictionary.com, is someone or something in the general vicinity, near where another lives, and a fellow human being. That is not all that different, than is described in various ways in the Bible. People very often had to cover great distances, to travel to another town or city, so being friendly with people you were not that familiar with was likely more common than it is for many of us now. I say that due to scenarios like Exodus 22:14, where instructions are given on what to do when borrowing a neighbor's farm animal, and something unfortunate happens. Also in Exodus 22:26, where we're instructed on the fact that if we borrow someone's cloak, that we should return it by sunset. The same chapter discusses what to do when there's a problem between neighbors, and how to work it out, etc. Also, it says that we are not to be jealous of our neighbors and plot to take their things, or let it come between those relationships. Leviticus talks about what will happen if we deceive a neighbor about something they may have entrusted us to care for, that belonged to them (Lev 6:2), how we should not prevent justice, nor be unfair in the treating of a neighbor (Lev 19:15), how we should not spread slander about a neighbor (Lev 19:16), and that we are not to seek revenge or hold a grudge against a neighbor - but rather to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Lev 19:18).
I think you get the idea. Neighbors in the Bible were clearly more connected than we often are with our neighbors in this day and time. I was taught this sort of behavior, as the Bible describes with fairness and respect, from the time I was a very young girl. I didn't always get it without having to get in trouble a few times, yet after awhile, I understood. And later it was something I appreciated more, as I began to interact with more different people. The fact is, when there's a basic discipline understood by all, regarding behavior with others - if it is followed - it can make some other things in life much easier to bear, as we go through them.
When I was 16, my parents divorced. It was sad and had unpleasantness for all involved in the process, yet there was also a sense I got, that my parents were really going different directions. With my brother and I older, and they seemed to do much better when they were not together anymore. I mourned the loss, but later on, I realized it was the best thing. We had lived in a city in NC for about four years at that point, and had gotten to know our neighbors fairly well. Many of the families had kids that also went to the High School and Junior High School that my brother and I had attended in that period of time. I babysat for a family or two that were either on our street, or on one nearby. I loved it there. We could ride our bikes just about anywhere, and while I had gotten my driver's license and took the car sometimes, I still spent more of my time riding my bike to most anywhere, when weather permitted. My routine was to come home after school, grab a snack and then hang out with a friend or two - and then later do homework and have dinner. Most days, the routine was pretty simple. But one day it got more complicated.
I came home one afternoon, to the realization I had locked my house key inside. There was no such thing as a cellphone, so I went down the street and asked a friend from choir, who lived on the corner, if I could use their phone to call my Mom. She was going to community college and working part-time then. I just wanted to catch her, so she could swing by on her way home and let me in the house. Mom lived about six blocks away in a townhouse. So I called and got her the message, and as I was walking out of the house, thanking my choir friend's Mom for the use of the phone, she stopped me and asked me a question. As I stopped and turned toward her, I began to get an uneasy feeling. She said when do you expect your Mom home?. I was born and raised by what some might describe as a painfully honest woman, and so my reply was simply oh, I don't expect her, because she doesn't live there anymore. I didn't think a thing about my reply, and went on with my day. I also fashioned a plan for the possibility of my accidentally locking the keys inside again. I fully worked the plan on getting in again, following what happened next.
The fine Christian woman that asked me about my Mom soon made it known to other neighbors on the street, that we had been abandoned by her. Interesting - considering it wasn't true. I'm guessing that would fall into the category of falsely slandering our neighbor? And the fact of the matter is that I spent most of my life with my Dad being gone for one reason or another, very often to do with work, yet not once did someone consider that in the category of abandonment. When we fail to truly care about people, we can just find ourselves in those different categories of the type of neighbor we are not to be as described by - either dictionary.com or the Bible - any version. And that rumour spread, plus a few other scenarios at a time that was very difficult, proved to be things that caused me to unknowingly learn about something else the Bible tells us is helpful. Guard your heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)
We need to be cautious of how we represent ourselves, in particular when we are representing Christ. When our motive in asking people about their lives is simply to gossip, and not to be someone who is extending a helping hand in Christ's name, then what can very often result is people distrusting anyone who claims to believe in Jesus. We are still people who make mistakes before and after knowing him, but the difference is supposed to be that after we know him, we care enough to want to steer people to him, and not drive them away. At a critical time in my life, someone made a tough situation an embarrassing lie. And that's how I remember that family now, no matter how much I would rather not. You can't unsay it, so think before you ask someone a personal question. Is it for your benefit, or God's glory, that you want to know? If it's for your own information, then perhaps just being quiet, or just saying youre welcome when sharing a quick favor, is a better way of being remembered. Like we have often said to our kids, some things you should just think in your head and not say outloud. Otherwise, we can cause others to over-guard their hearts, and not want to share at all. I, apparently, always belonged to God and asked the Savior into my life, about a year later. Not every ending is like mine after such an experience. So we should take the advice of the Father and Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 KJV)
All scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.