That’s Not Your Neighborhood!

19 Aug

Interactions with neighbors can be good and bad.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Love thy neighbor—but don’t pull down your hedge.” 

I laughed when I read that, but there might be some truth in Franklin’s warning. Boundaries can be a good thing, as poet Robert Frost also reminds us: “Good fences make good neighbours.” 

Yet even though hedges and fences are healthy, they’re never meant to prevent us from showing love and kindness. They’re never supposed to allow us to fence in our grievances and let them fester into self-focused ugliness toward our neighbors.

Hate is never to be our “neighborhood.”

After the Charlottesville rioting, I read and thought a lot about neighbors and neighborhoods. 

English comedian Eric Morecambe said, “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor.”

English theologian G.K. Chesterton had a lot to say about neighbors. Two favorite thoughts:

“We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbor.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.

I think we have a lot to learn about neighbors and neighborhoods, and the Bible is a good place to start.

Some neighborhoods are to be avoided entirely! The writer of Proverbs warned his sons not to even stroll through the neighborhood of the adultress.

And I’ve read plenty of scriptures that remind me the “territory” of gluttony is not my neighborhood either! In fact, the works of the flesh are never the Christian’s neighborhood.

But after Charlottesville, I studied what God has to say about actual people as neighbors, and I’ve determined not to live in the “neighborhood” of HATE!

Here’s what God says:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”(Romans 13:10).

“… having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor ….” (Ephesians 4:25)

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2).

There are a host of scriptures that—while they don’t use the words “neighbor” or “neighborhood”—back these verses up and help us understand what being a good and godly neighbor should look like.

NOTE: We might quibble over some scriptures below, arguing that they only concern members of the body of Christ. But I contend we can still practice the characteristics of neighborliness with anyone.

Perhaps the Lord will use our attitudes, words and actions to win over those who don’t know Him.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once shared concerning a learned man who asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

King noted the Lord’s response.

“‘I do not know his name,” says Jesus in essence. “He is anyone toward whom you are neighborly. He is anyone who lies in need at life’s roadside’… So Jesus defines a neighbor, not in a theological definition, but in a life situation.”

I agree. Our neighbors are anyone the Lord puts in our path, especially for His purposes.

Here are just a few characteristics we should develop to become good neighbors.

Can’t you just imagine how different our world would be if we lived according to God’s Word?

The story of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10 might just as well be called “The Good Neighbor.”

As King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”

Does your idea of “neighborliness” match God’s truth?

Get practical here: What can you do to avoid the neighborhood of hate and create a neighborhood of love wherever you go?

All neighbor/neighborhood quotes in this post from WorkingHumor.com.

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