Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Love Your Neighbor

Ever watch two toddlers play? Especially two 2 year olds who are only children, doted on by loving grandparents?

It doesn't take long for one word to pop up.  "Mine" 

As in, "It's mine, leave it alone. Don't you dare touch it or I'll bite your fingers off."

Ever hear the statement it's a dog eat dog world?  We live in a society that believes in getting what we deserve... if it's something good.  We don't always think about not getting what we deserve, if it's bad.  That's the difference between grace and mercy.

And the world in which we live not full of grace, nor is it full of mercy. 

I've been stewing all day today about loving your neighbor.  See, on the left hand side of my house is my Mom and Dad. I love those neighbors because they raised me. They loved me and bought me food and my first car, gave me advice when I didn't know where to turn, and basically did so much that I could never repay them.  On the right hand side, my mother-in-law and father-in-law live.  They accepted me as their own, listened to me gripe about their own son, make me gravy and biscuits, and do a multitude of things that mean the world to me.

But this love, this new commandment love, is different.

The Good Samaritan parable tells us that everyone is our neighbor, regardless of where they come from or what religious denomination or political opinion. 

The concept of having everyone as a neighbor is understandable to me, because I live in a small town where if you don't know someone, chances are you know their granny or grandpa. 

There are benefits to this.  If your car ever catches on fire in the middle of a lonely country road at 11 PM, you feel pretty safe going and knocking on someone's door to ask to use a phone.  (Yes, this is personal experience).  You also feel fairly confident sending your kid to the concession stand at a ballgame, and even if you only sent him with $3, he may just come back with $5 worth of goods. (Yes, personal experience again.  Or go to another school as a visitor and have the athletic director/Principal pay for his concessions when you don't have any money.  My Caleb is nothing if not a bum.)

In a small town, we tend to laugh with one another and cry with one another.  In the faces of tragedies like flooding, we've got each other's backs.

But sometimes, that small town life is a hinderance, too... because not only do we tend to have each other's backs, we sometimes talk behind one another's backs.

That is not loving your neighbor, even if you say, "Pray for so and so... did you hear that...?" before you say it. Gossip is still gossip, even if you are trying to get information so you can send up a prayer for someone.

Loving your neighbor as Jesus intended is to be willing to lay your life down for them.  That's right.  Lay down your life.  They may have a differing view of things than how you see it. 

Be willing to listen to their view.  Don't judge until you walk a mile, or two, or even ten or fifteen in their shoes.

True friendship, true neighbors, have no agenda.  They don't keep score or keep track of who owes them favors.  They are happy for their neighbors when good things happen, rejoice when they rejoice, and they aren't jealous. 

True neighbors demonsrate love in the way that God intended... "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears."

I know this verse isn't written in this context, but love is supportive and patient and kind and doesn't look out for itself... and doesn't judge.  It doesn't judge because we never know the whole situation, or what people are going through.... so it is only our place to love. 

This world is hard enough without creating more problems. 

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