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Who Is My Neighbor?

July 18, 2013

In my last entry I wrote about a very powerful example of God’s love as manifested in my life. As we that follow Christ are aware we have been given commands and these are how we can illustrate that we are followers of Jesus and that we love Him who sacrificed so that we might have to gift of communion with our God.

When we hear that we are to love God with all of our hearts, minds, soul and all of our strength there is little doubt as to who that love is to be directed towards. We may not have the depth of commitment to follow through and I am certain that my love for God seems puny and all so incomplete when I think about He is the very definition of love, but I understand that God is the object of that love.

 

It is not as clear when we hear Jesus instruct us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who exactly is my neighbor? Is it the person that lives down the street from me or across the way? Are they people that I share things in common with; like the church I attend or the fraternal order of which I am a member? Could it possible be the man whose picture is on this page, a leper?

In today’s world there are few that still suffer from leprosy but in Jesus’ time there were many that did. It was such a large problem that there were ceremonially cleansing rituals that were outlined within the Old Testament. The book of Leviticus (Leviticus Chapter 13: 2-59) outlines what the priest can do to assist in the healing process and how the leper can be declared clean.

In today’s society there are those that suffer from the same stigma that the lepers of Jesus’ day suffered, though they have no physical disease by which they are afflicted. We don’t see disease as God’s punishment. We don’t see blindness as God’s retribution for our sins or even those of our parents. We see sin in the harm that we do to each other. Those that break our laws are sin in society’s eyes.

Please do not get the wrong impression and assume that I don’t see those that have sinned against God as being the people that we should aspire to have in our homes, or associate with our loved ones. When we read Psalm 1 first couple of verses we hear God’s direction; “Blessed be the man that does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1,2) We are not to knowing consort with those that do evil.

So how do we define neighbor: neigh·bor

neigh·bor [náybər]
n (plural neigh·bors)
1. somebody living nearby: somebody who lives next door or close to somebody else
2. something or somebody nearby: a person, place, or thing located next to another or very nearby – the Spanish and their Portuguese neighbors
3. fellow human: a fellow human being (archaic or literary)

Often we look at our neighbors in relation to where we live or even their ideology. We make a point to move into an area where like minded people live, where everyone is the same color and of the socioeconomic strata. These are our equals, our peers. Our freedoms in this country enable many of us to become comfortable with the neighbors that we have, after all we have chosen them and they have chosen us.

But when one of those neighbors isn’t what we thought they were or they do something that we find offensive or is a sin, we can isolate them or even move them out of our neighborhood by putting them in a place where Jesus has asked us to go and minister. “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”(Matthew 25:36). So perhaps the neighbor is not always the man or woman that is living in the house next to yours or the apartment two floors down. Perhaps they once were located there but because of whatever reasons they are now in a very distant place.

Are we not challenged by a God that has been consistent in his desire for us to value those around us as we see in this Old Testament quotation? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18) Does this not speak volumes of the fact that should be about giving our neighbors the opportunity to try again? “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21,22)

If you are a follower of Jesus, a disciple you are called to higher standard of love for your fellow disciples. Jesus takes the command to love your neighbor as yourself as He instructs the disciples after He had washed their feet. “A new command I give to you, to love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”(John 13:34) I look at God’s love for us, Jesus’ love and I cannot comprehend the depth and the heights of that love. I find myself in awe of a God that knows what is good and right for all of us neighbors.

 

 

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