Friday, January 30, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 21:

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.  Go and do the same." (Luke 10:27,37 NASB)

We come now to loving our neighbor. Of course, we are not just to love our neighbor, but to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In the previous post, we looked at the ways we love ourselves and I, for one, found it painful. 

We move now to loving our neighbor, whether that neighbor lives next door, on the other side of the tracks, or on the other side of the world. If we love ourselves by providing food, shelter, clothing, and education for ourselves and our children, should we not also love our neighbors by trying to provide the same? There are children living on the streets in our cities, and in garbage dumps in other countries, scrounging for what refuse they can eat. My friends, this should not be. There are entire families who lost everything as they fled from certain death at the hands of ISIS to Erbil, where they are now homeless, without basic shelter, food, or clothing. How can we do nothing? 

Bringing it closer to home, what about the neighbor who offends us in some way with their lifestyle, their priorities? How do we love them? Do we take the love of Christ to them? Make an effort to get to know them? Dear ones, we will never love our neighbor if we do not make an effort to know our neighbor. 

Some of my favorite people are neighbors I did not love until I chose to know them. You might be surprised by the friends you find among those neighbors you don't yet know, so invite your neighbor (not just the one next door) over for coffee. Offer to help them with a project. Go out of your way to be kind to the people God puts in your path, then get to know them. 

Since we've been studying this whole issue of loving our neighbor, I've been praying that I would actually see my neighbor in the same way the Samaritan did, and not hold back because of fear. It's been an interesting journey. Having been through some considerable difficulty in the distant past with some of the people God has placed in my path, it's my way to hold back rather than step out. In general, it's the fear of my neighbor that stops me cold, long before I get to knowing and loving my neighbor. 

Just a few days ago, I had stopped to run an errand when I noticed a scruffy-looking man who had the hood up on a car and was examining the motor. That still small voice whispered, "There's your neighbor," and I thought, "Lord, I don't know about this, but okay." I glanced around and there was not another soul in sight, but I walked over to the man and said, (for lack of anything better to say) "Do you need to be jumped off?" He looked up and smiled the sweetest smile. "Oh, no, thanks," he said. "My daughter called me and said her car was making a noise so I came right out to check on it." Just then, his very beautiful daughter walked up. "Hey, Daddy. Thanks for coming!" she told him. I watched as he gave her a big hug. 

He was scruffy because he had jumped in his truck and hurried to help his daughter without a thought to the clothes he was wearing. How foolish I was to judge this kind daddy because of his clothes, and how foolish I was to consider letting fear keep me from such a sweet moment. In fact, that sweet daddy was a lot like our Heavenly Father. When His children call on Him, He is always ready to respond with the help we desperately need. 

Perhaps fear is not the issue that keeps you from knowing and loving your neighbor. Whatever it is that holds you back, however, you can give it to our Lord and allow Him to work through you to see your neighbor as the Samaritan did, with compassion that leads to action. Dear ones, let's pray for the eyes of the Samaritan, the eyes of Christ, to see those around us as the neighbors God has given us and respond as the hands and feet of Jesus. 

Be a friend. Make a friend. Lead your friend to Christ.