Saturday, September 3, 2011

If I truly loved my neighbor

     Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The command-ments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. – Romans 13:8-14

     A comedian once joked that the biblical command to love your neighbor and love your enemies were side-by-side in the Gospels because usually they were the same people. In Romans, Paul says, "Any other commandment(s), are summed up in this word, 'love your neighbor as yourself.' love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.'"

     Loving your neighbor is something we say we’ll do every time we repeat our baptismal covenant: The celebrant says, "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" and the people respond, "I will, with God's help." If you check the Internet, you'll find people have made up all sorts of lists of what they feel it means to "love your neighbor" in practical terms. Here are some of the more interesting ones I found:
  • Ask your priest if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit.
  • Mow your neighbor’s grass.
  • Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school. (try to get to know the kid’s family.)
  • Plant a tree.
  • Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back and eat or sleep in the shelter and allow yourself to be served.
  • The next time you're out shopping, let the person behind you in line go first.
  • Take a prayer walk. With the lovely days of late summer upon us, go for a walk around your neighborhood, and pray for your neighbors as you stroll.
  • Listen to other's stories.
  • Share a meal.
  • Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don´t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read the Bible together, or play board games.
  • Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask them to pray for you.
     But of course, other people's lists might give you ideas, but you really have to make your own. As I studied this scripture this week, I kept coming back to the same thing: If I truly loved my neighbor, as I profess, how would my life change? Some of you have mentioned you like my sermons... thank you. If you haven't gotten the chance to tell me, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment at the end of this blog entry.  I'm going to share with you one of my secrets for writing a sermon: I'm always preaching to myself. If you ever hear something in my sermons that feels like I'm urging others to do something or criticizing something, it's honestly directed at me... I just happen to be sharing it with you. So, I thought I'd just share with you the list I've come up with this week as I contemplated what it would mean in my life:

     #1 - I would have to get to know my neighbors better. The neighbors to the south of me moved out, but there are new ones moving in. I've not met them... aren't I going to have to do that so I can truly love them? The man and his family to the north of me I know. We speak every now and then. He's got a lawn care business; his lawn is gorgeous... something straight out of a Better Homes & Gardens photo spread. The man is an artist.  I am a guy... like all guys, I used to see it as a competition. I used to try to have a nicer lawn than he has, but I've given up. My only goal now is to keep my lawn nice enough so I don't embarrass him when his friends come over. But I truly don’t know many of my other neighbors.

     #2 - I wouldn't judge so quickly. I wouldn't take offence so quickly, and then would handle it as Jesus suggested in Matthew 18: I would go to the person privately… or I would let it go. I wouldn’t gossip. I wouldn't be so quick to think negatively of people. I know I'd like people to do that for me.

     #3 - I won't complain about Rin Tin Tin. That neighbor with the beautiful lawn has a new German Shepherd puppy... who whines and barks constantly. But I saw that dog when the man's son first brought him home... He slipped his leash, ran straight to me in my garage, and rolled over so I could pat his tummy. My neighbor and his son ran over to retrieve the dog, and as I patted his tummy, I asked the dog’s name. My neighbor said proudly with his heavy Hispanic accent, “Rin Tin Tin.” That man's son had dreamed for years of having a dog of his own... and now he was here, and the boy looked so happy and proud. So, because I know my neighbor and his son, I won't complain when he barks and whines all the time, he's just a puppy – a puppy as big as a small horse... and the boy… you should see him… the boy is so happy.

     #4 - I would be a better driver. I'm a pretty safe driver as it is. Maybe a little too cautious. But if I thought more of my neighbor, I’d probably be more than just a careful driver… I would be a kind driver. I probably wouldn't honk at all… yes, sometimes I do – I try not to do it when I’m in collar. Let's be honest: They call the horn a "safety feature," but it's only used for two main reasons: One, to say, "You idiot!" or two, to say, "Can't you see the light's green, you idiot?" Neither of which sounds too neighborly to me.

     #5 - I would listen more and speak less. I guess that would be because I would care more about what my neighbor has to say... I would want to listen more carefully.

     Amazing. Paul in Romans tells us to be holy... to fulfill all that God really wants out of us, we don't have to go away and live as some kind of religious hermit in a cave. We don't need to work any great miracles. We don't need to sell all our possessions and put on sackcloth. We don't even have to have a Doctorate of Divinity from a recognized seminary. No, all we have to do is work a bit more on loving our neighbor, and any other commandments just fall in line… they’re taken care of.  You've heard my list... how my life would change if I truly, truly loved my neighbor… now, it might be interesting to make up your own.


  1. Two thumbs up...and I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who preaches to themselves. (except at funerals, for the most part)

    Thanks for writing; it helps me get to know my neighbor.


     Your comments are welcome. I've had to add a word verification step to the comment process to screen out spam. I apologize for the inconvenience.