We need to talk about your neighbors.
My neighbors are pigs. I should say, my neighbors own pigs. Five of them.
I’ll never forget when they first moved in. My wife and I were headed somewhere, and when we stepped out of the house, this guy was blocking our way to the car.
At the time we thought he was alone. We were shocked to learn he was only one of five, and that they lived inside the house.
Talk about pigs in a blanket! (See what I did there?)
Things quickly became awkward. The pigs constantly wandered into our yard, eating the grass and leaving “treats” behind. We were getting frustrated. But after time, and a few calls to the owner, they put a fence up. Now all we deal with is the occasional visit from their sweater vest wearing Siamese cat. I can’t make this stuff up.
Living among others is tricky isn’t it? Maybe you live next to the couple who always fights or yells at their kids, or the neighbor planting a car-part garden. Perhaps you enjoy a neatly groomed lawn and you’re convinced the guy next door has never used a lawnmower.
Maybe you are that neighbor. That’s an interesting thought. What do my neighbors think about me?
What kind of neighbor am I?
For me, it probably depends on who you ask. Beth, the sweet lady across the street might say I’m a nice young man. The pig owners may have a different opinion. I’m not sure. I don’t even know their names.
Not good for someone who takes the Bible seriously.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Jesus
I haven’t loved these neighbors, not in a practical sense. I barely wave when I see them.
That is problematic, considering how this is one of the great commandments, second only to loving God. Of course, the term neighbor isn’t limited to those who live down the block. It refers to every person we come in contact with.
And this means more than a pseudo respect for people. Loving someone the way you love yourself is time-consuming. It denotes sacrifice.
Think of the ways you love yourself.
- You make sure you eat when you’re hungry.
- seek to provide comfortable environments for yourself.
- demand respect from others.
- work hard to achieve goals.
- gravitate towards people who make you feel good.
And this is how we are to love others, even strangers. We are called to leverage our efforts for the good of mankind, to want for people the same things we want for ourselves.
What would society be like if we really adopted this command? How many bellies would still be swollen from starvation? How many deaths as a result of racial conflict? How many hospitals would be busy nursing the wounds of violence? Not many.
We would have fewer arguments because every opinion would receive equal attention, not that love is without disagreement, but our approach would radically change.
This is obviously not the world we live in. Even the church struggles to follow the words of Christ.
So where do we start?
The key to obeying the second commandment (love your neighbor) is found in the first commandment (love God with everything).
My love for God is a direct result of His love for me. The closer I look at his sacrificial affection, the more my heart is filled with affection for others. God loved me when I was a stranger. Why wouldn’t I do the same for the strangers in my life?
This is easy to preach, hard to practice. John Piper offers a helpful thought:
People, human beings, everywhere you find them, are designed to receive and enlarge your joy in God. Love them the way you love yourself. Show them, give them—through every practical means available—what you have found for yourself in God.
I have found more love in God than I could ever deserve, and I’m no better than anyone else. I think it’s time I take a trip next door.
How is loving your neighbors working out for you? Join the discussion.
Photo Credit: Vox Photo (Creative Commons)
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