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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


Give Me a Break!

12 Mar

When you take a break, be careful where you are!

EagleInTree_morguefileAn eagle sat high up in a tree, just resting and doing nothing—taking a break from soaring in the sky.

A little rabbit observed the eagle and called out, “I really admire how you’re resting up there. Think I can do the same?”

“Sure, why not?” the eagle replied.

So the rabbit sat on the ground at the bottom of the tree. He got himself comfortable. Just resting. Doing nothing,

And along came a fox and he jumped on the rabbit and ate it!

Moral of this quirky story: If you’re going to take a break, make sure you’re sitting very, very high up!

I’ve been pretty stressed lately. In the stress, I’ve caught myself saying, “Give me a break!” I need more planned rest. (Sort of like the old Calgon commercial: “Calgon, take me away!”)

I rationalized that I didn’t have time for a break. Dumb.

It may sound counterproductive, but taking breaks makes us more productive, not less.

In a 2012 article, Phyllis Korkki, a writer for The New York Times, offered words of wisdom about taking breaks. She said taking regular breaks from mental tasks helps us be more productive and creative; and it helps us avoid stress and exhaustion.

She quotes a school of management expert:

“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.”


Painting by Greg Olson **

We see in scripture that Jesus took breaks in His ministry. In the midst of His busy work, He often withdrew to rest and pray (example: Luke 5:16).

In Addicted to Busy,* author Brady Boyd wrote about Jesus taking many “well-deserved breaks.”

As often as possible, Boyd said, “Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.”

“He withdraws in order to work through tragic news … to gain insight on important decisions … to enjoy time with his closest companions … as a means of teaching his disciples…

“When He senses it’s time to withdraw, he just goes. … Rhythmic—that’s how Jesus lived. It’s how we’re invited to live too.”

Brady described Jesus’s break strategy as: “engage, engage, engage, withdraw … engage, engage, engage, withdraw.”

We all need R & R (rest and relaxation). Whether a day off, a vacation, or even a short break during our workday, we all need to refresh our energy. We need exercise and sleep, and the luxury of “time off.”

Christ-followers need rhythmic refreshing for more productive, creative ministry. Besides all the things we do for our body and emotions to recharge, we also need prayer and time in the Word of God. We need spiritual refreshing.

“My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1).

We find rest in the presence of God (Exodus 33:14; Psalm 62:5Matthew 11:28).

Ah yes, rest in God. The perfect remedy for stress. 

Is it time for a break? Are you enjoying the rhythmic refreshing of Christ-like living—a pattern the Lord illustrates with His own life?

 * Book – Brady Boyd, Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul (David C. Cook, 2014).

** Painting: © Greg Olsen | “Worlds without End. Used with permission.

Eagle graphic: morguefile

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