Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Love your neighbor...

I have had some interesting neighbors in my lifetime.  At my parents house where I grew up, every one of my neighbors were related to me...seriously, no joke.  My neighbors consisted of aunts, uncles and cousins from both my mom's side of the family and my dad's side of the family.  So there was no choice but to love my neighbor :) during my childhood.

In college, the first time I moved off Talton Road, my neighbors were complete strangers.  In the dorm, all my neighbors were girls.  In my first apartment, I honestly never met any of my neighbors.  In my first townhouse, my roommate and I met a few of our neighbors, but never formed lasting relationships with anyone.

Then there was the first time I lived on my own, no roommate, just little old me.  Kinda scary.  And once again, I did not really try to get to get to know any of my neighbors.  The couple that lived directly under me did not like me very much.  I had an exercise machine.  (Do you remember the Gazelle thing?)  The first time I used it, I thought the woman was going to come and beat me up.   She came flying up those stairs and was yelling for me to stop.  I had no idea she could hear it.  It was not like it was real loud or even early in the morning.  But, needless to say we did not get off on the best foot.  They got mad at me if I parked in "their space" (FYI spaces were not assigned).  They would cook horrendous smelling food that I would have to smell.  They argued to the point that I could hear them.  The list of offences is pretty long.  I never reached out to them.

When we read in multiple places in the Bible, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." what thoughts come into your mind?  Also, who do you even consider to be your "neighbor"?

The Concise Bible Dictionary has this to say about the word "Neighbor" -

"A neighbor, then is any person we encounter who has any need.  That includes every person we encounter...Loving our neighbor is second in importance only to loving God (Matt. 25;35-39)..."

Did you catch that?  "every person we encounter"  and  "second in importance to loving God".  YIKES!

"Oh surely not that person."  "I can't get along with them."  "But they are so negative." Are these some of your thoughts right now?????

Even as Christians we are going to experience times when people, to put it bluntly, get on our nerves.  There is the rude person at the cash register, the person who cut in front of us in line, the mean customer service rep.  Are we to love these people?

You know the answer just like I do...YES!!!!!

Today's Verse
"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."  Colossians 4:6

This verse is referring to witnessing to non-believers, but I believe it can be applied to any situation.  Whether we are answering a question from our children, a rude encounter with a complete stranger, or dealing with a fellow believer that we do not always agree with, we have to love that person and allow our speech to reflect grace.  Every "neighbor" we encounter needs to see God's love through our actions and words.

I am finishing up the Philippians study, and am so excited to be reading/studying chapter 4 this week.  I have to say it is probably my most favorite chapter in the whole Bible (I hope we can discuss this fact later this week.)  But I have to confess that I usually skip the first 3 verses and head to verse 4.  After really reading the first verses I realized after more studying that Paul is telling two ladies in the church to get along.  Phil 4:2 "I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche, that they be the same mind in the Lord."  These are two Christians, two church going ladies, two sisters in Christ, and they are not getting along.    My Women's Study Bible says they "were at odds with one another over some matter(s)."

We are going to have not-so-nice encounters with friends and family, with Christians and non-Christians, with strangers and acquaintances.  We just have to keep in the back of our minds to "Let (our) speech be always with grace" and with God's strength and guidance we can "love our neighbors as ourselves."

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