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

Indulgence is Not a Worthy ‘Reward’

22 Jul

Ethel Mae woke up in the middle of the night and decided to get a drink of water. 

But on the way to the refrigerator, she passed the candy dish and grabbed a butterscotch candy. Then on the way to the cupboard for a glass, she opened the snack drawer and grabbed a Hostess Twinkie. Then she took her glass over to the refrigerator to get some chilled water and stopped off at the cookie jar for some peanut butter cookiesFinally, she picked up the pitcher and poured herself some water. And grabbed the leftover pie on the top shelf before she shut the refrigerator door.

After munching on her treats, she headed back to bed and crawled under the covers; but she accidentally woke up her husband, Harry, who said he felt thirsty. 

“I’ll get it!” Ethel Mae said … getting up with a big smile. 

I can’t say I’ve had a middle-of-the-night food binge like that, but when I went on a food program to get healthy and lose weight, I soon realized how indulgent I can be.

John Bloom at DesiringGod.org says, “We are all self-indulgers. The whole lot of us. Let’s just admit it upfront and help each other fight!”

Indulgence is foolish and selfish.

And sinful!

When we indulge rather than fight or abstain from “the passions of the flesh,” we’re only inviting more problems.

[I’m not talking about the planned-for dessert or a well-chosen and hopefully healthy occasional “treat.” There’s a difference related to motive.]

We know indulgence when we see it. Indulgence puts a damper on our desire to please the Lord and is contrary to wisely stewarding our bodies.

Indulgence can be heinous, but it can be subtle too. It can even be a form of idolatry. The enemy of our soul can even deceive us into believing indulgence is a good thing… a REWARD.

What? A reward?

Yes, I discovered this trickery while deep into my healthy eating plan. I proudly marked off a week of staying “on program” and said to myself,

You deserve a treat!”

So I started with an extra “allowable” food bar (which is really a candy bar dressed up in protein).

  • Then a few animal crackers.
  • Then a brownie.
  • Then an ice cream sandwich.

Soon, I was totally out of control.

I was living out what my nutritionist says,

“You have the disease of ‘MORE!'”

It’s a “heart” disease, and escalating indulgence is one of the clues I have it.

We need to be careful when we equate “deserving” with indulging. Indulgence—too much of a good thing—can be a first step on a fresh journey away from self-control. 

That’s how subtle this form of idolatry is. The thing we indulge in—in my case, sugar or overly-starchy foods—can become a driving “master” in our lives; we can find our indulgence addictive and destructive.

Our emotions can trick us.

Bloom says, “At the moment of indulging, it doesn’t feel like an enemy. It feels like a reward that makes us happy. … But after indulging, defeat hangs like a heavy yoke around the neck of our souls.”

I thought indulgence was my “reward” for obedience and wise choices. But that was a lie—a false promise built on a false premise.

My reward should have been the joy found in pleasing the Lord.

Rather than the joy of fulfilling a temporary craving, I should have focused on eternal truths like the one found in Luke 9:23-25:

… “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

The truth is, indulgence should not be part of my life in ANY form—pride and self-glory, greed, gluttony or any lust of the flesh.

I should be “awake and have control,” not be sleepy and indulgent!

My body is God’s dwelling place, and I am set apart for the praise of His glory.

Being “set apart” is being sanctified and holy, and those words are incongruous with the word “indulgent.”

But I have to confess. Sometimes it’s just plain hard not to indulge.

That’s when I need an eternal focus. I must remember my real reward is the “prize” awaiting me from the Lord at His return.

As Jesus said in Revelation 22:12: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

And His reward will be a lot more satisfying than a middle-of-the-night food spree.

Do you struggle with indulging in sinful attitudes and behaviors? What is the lie you are believing, or the false promise you’re embracing? 

 – Dawn

Graphic courtesy of cohdra-Morguefile

 

 

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