Who is My Neighbor?
I have found that in the last 3 weeks, the people to whom I have the most contact with are people that I have never even spoken to before now. I have found those in my neighborhood to be more chatty than normal. I have also found myself being a little more annoyed with my closest neighbors (those with whom I live). During this bizarre time, the Lord has been teaching and convicting me a lot about loving my neighbors. Neighbors look different for each of us but the reason we have for loving our neighbor should be the same for all believers—that we may glorify the Father. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24,31 “All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor…So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Paul starts this passage off by talking about our neighbor and ends it by saying whatever we do, do it for God’s glory. I want to challenge us with 3 different categories of neighbors for us to love this week for the glory of God.
First, I want to challenge us to love our actual physical next-door neighbor. The family or person that lives in the house or the apartment next door. This is an incredible time to build a relationship for the sake of the gospel with our neighbors. If your neighborhood has been like mine, people are out everywhere when the weather is nice. Take the time to speak to those people (from an appropriate distance) and get to know them. May I challenge you, however, to get to know them for the sake of their souls and not just for the sake of conversation. Our goal in this ‘loving our neighbor for the glory of the Father’ is not to have more friendships (although that may be an added benefit) but to advance the kingdom and to show compassion for those in need. We cannot know if our neighbor is in need without first knowing our neighbor. Knowing our neighbor begins by speaking to our neighbor. Take advantage of the slower pace of life the Lord has gifted us with and gift our Father by being obedient to his command to love our neighbor.
Second, I want to challenge us to love our neighbor that lives within the same walls of our house. This one has proven the MOST difficult for me. I have 3 little neighbors and 1 big neighbor that live within my walls and mostly I LOVE spending time with them but these past 3 weeks have had its challenges at times! I was really convicted last week when I read Luke 6:35-36 where it says “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will be truly acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are ungrateful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” I do not think that my children and husband are my enemies; however, when I read this verse I was reminded that regardless of the level of thankfulness and gratefulness that I receive on a daily basis, I am to be kind and compassionate towards the people with whom I live. Am I truly acting like a child of the Most High and showing kindness to those who are ungrateful (because if I’m honest my children don’t always know how to be grateful)? It is easy to respond out of frustration to my children when they are asking me a million questions or haven’t the slightest clue as to how to give me personal space. When I respond in that way, though, am I showing my family the compassion of the Father? Am I displaying the gospel to my family in a tangible way or am I distorting the gospel to those little watching eyes? I must choose compassion on these very long days instead of frustration because I have 3 lost little souls that are getting a front-row seat to the gospel in my life.
Third, I want to challenge us to love our neighbors that live on the internet. I have found myself spending more time on social media than normal. As I read posts and statuses, if I’m not careful, I am finding myself casting judgment or maybe even responding with comments or statuses that are not necessarily compassionate to my “internet neighbor.” I want to caution us that even though we are behind a screen and typing out our “opinions that we are entitled to,” that our words still have power and the ability to build up or tear down. Let us speak the truth in love and be careful not to cast judgment too quickly regarding someone else’s opinions. I challenge us as Christ challenged us in the parable of the Good Samaritan to be compassionate to those who are in need. I would argue that as people who are created for relationships, we are all in need of a neighbor especially during this time where many of us feel isolated and alone. May we seek to build up and encourage our internet neighbors with our comments, posts, and statuses.
I want to leave us with a passage of scripture that I have found to be convicting and extremely practical in ways to love my physical, familial, and internet neighbor. Colossians 3:12-17 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”