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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 WorkingHumor.com.

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What in the World is a ‘Faithful Wound’?

28 Jul

I feel like I need a paraphrase of Proverbs 17:17 today.

“A friend loves at all times, and a sister is born for the days when you are craving every unhealthy food in history!”

I joke that I don’t need a personal trainer (OK, maybe I do), but I just need someone who loves me who will shadow me and slap every unhealthy food out of my hand.*

My husband jokes, “I’M not going to be that friend. I know better!”

I laugh, but that would be love, right?

Actually, that kind of friend really does love you. (And my husband has challenged my choices from time to time.)

Good, loving friends really do speak the truth and challenge you to confront the lies you’re believing, or the rabbit trails you’re chasing, or the foolishness you’re letting reign in your heart and life.

God-honoring friends encourage you to be wise and not indulge in anything that will harm you or prevent you from becoming the person God created you to be. They are wise counselors and we can trust their advice.

“The righteous is a guide to his neighbor.”

A good friend might “wound”* us with their advice, but they don’t wound us to hurt us.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern]….” (Prov. 27:6a AMP)

Faithful wounds.

The kind of wounds that come because a friend simply wants what is best for us and wants God to heal us of any sinful and harmful behaviors and addictions. 

It’s like the pain of setting a bone that’s out of joint. Sometimes there has to be some pain before we can heal.

There are times a friend will wisely overlook something in our lives, and that is grace in action.

But there are other times friends will lovingly confront us. And that is also grace in action. 

A true friendship is never threatened by disagreement or even misunderstanding that might come in times of loving confrontation. That kind of friend knows there is some accountability involved in a true, loving friendship.

Do you have a friend who is willing to love you enough to challenge you when you wander off the path of righteousness or are about to make a foolish choice?

If so, praise God for that friend. You desperately need her!

– Dawn

* Note: I’m not talking about any kind of abuse here. Just the “love-tap” of friendship’s wounds … much like the way we tap a baby’s hand and shout “NO” when the baby reaches for something that will cause harm.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of silviarita-Pixabay

Media Distraction: Rabbits and Lizards

25 Feb

My maltipoo, Roscoe, has a short attention span when it roscoe_whereistherabbitcomes to two words. No matter what my furboy is doing—even sleeping!—if I say either “rabbit” or “lizard,” he stops what he’s doing, cocks his head, and then look toward the back door or a nearby window.

Roscoe wonders, I think, “What am I missing? Is there a rabbit out there? A lizard?”

I have to admit I’m a Roscoe when it comes to the daily news and social media. No matter what I’m doing, it doesn’t take much to distract me these days.

“I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?”

“What’s up in the news? What am I missing? 

Rabbits and lizards. Sad, huh?

The worst thing about media distraction is, it takes up a lot of precious time. 

Time that can never be reclaimed (Psalm 90:12).

  • Time with the Lord in prayer.
  • Time reading or memorizing scripture.
  • Time with family.
  • Time writing about things that matter.
  • Time sharing the Gospel.
  • Time working hard with purpose.
  • Time to be creative.
  • Time to rest my heart and mind—away from all the stressful voices that disturb my peace and joy.

Now I am, by nature, a woman with a lot of curiosity. It’s not that I’m nosy; I just love learning about things. And I’m not condemning these things per se: the Internet and media are sources for learning. (Even though I need to be careful to weigh what we learn against the truth of scripture.)

My rule of thumb is: The news and social media should enhance our lives, not become our lives.

But the enemy of my soul would like to keep me more curious about and loving the things of this world rather than the things that count for eternity—my relationship with God, people with souls, and the eternal Word of God. It’s a pretty powerful scheme (2 Corinthians 2:11). Part of his strategy in my life is getting me addicted to media.

The recent Presidential election kept me glued to my television. I was constantly turning my head, checking out what the most influential talking head of the hour thought about the candidates and how their platforms lined up with world issues. In the process, I got caught up reading a lot of things that made for nastiness and division.

I foolishly thought that would all stop after November 2016. But it didn’t. The nastiness and division continues. And Christians are caught up in it too. Christian friends who share similar doctrines have parted ways over political and social “preferences.”

Have we no respect and civility? Have we forgotten love?

Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Paul said we’re to outdo ourselves in honoring one another (Romans 12:10).

And if a Facebook friend suddenly feels like an enemy? Jesus said to even love our enemies and pray for them! (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve learned I do not need to comment on every negative post; and I’m asking the Lord to help me discern when to share and when to stay silent (Proverbs 26:4-5).

It’s silly to end up in pointless quarrels with people who just want to debate (2 Timothy 2:23-24). But there are also times we need to speak up to expose weak, unbiblical thinking in the church. We need to speak truth while letting love reign, and pursue, with godly wisdom, what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (James 1:5; Romans 14:19).

And sometimes, we just need to step away from the constant distraction of media and social media—so many voices—and seek the Lord and listen for His voice.

We need to focus on what is of “first importance”—getting out the freeing Gospel message and living in light of it (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can’t afford distractions.

We’ve got to learn how to deal with those pesky rabbits and lizards!

How can you let media enhance your life without letting it control (or become) your life?

~ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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