What does your neighborhood look like?
Who are the people who make up your community?
I really want to pick my neighbors. We are not all Mr. Rogers.
We recently had a change of neighbors because we moved to a new neighborhood. During our search for a new home, I would look up the homes surrounding the one we were interested in buying, on the county property records website, to see who owned these homes. Since my husband grew up in the area, I would run through the list of names with him to see if he knew who they were and interrogate him for any information. I would grill him for details: When did they graduate? Were these people married? Why or why not? Did they have kids? How many kids did they have? Dear neighbors, we love you. Just so everyone is clear: this was all my ridiculousness and not my husband’s.
We have stellar neighbors and it has nothing to do with the amount of research I did. We have a neighbor kid who loves things neat and tidy, so he cleans my house. Some of our neighbors are like cousins to our kids, they spend that much time together. We eat lots of lunches and lots of freezer pops with our neighbors. There is a lot of shared trampoline time. It is a beautiful thing.
I’m pretty sure Jesus would NOT have given me an A+ on the research project I conducted while we were selecting a home.
I wanted good neighbors.
I wanted neighbors who were drama free.
I wanted my neighbors to be like me.
Most of all, I wanted my neighbors to be easy to love.
I’m afraid I looked like the lawyer who approached Jesus and asked,
“And who [really] is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ response to the lawyer is not a list of who his neighbor is but a picture of who Jesus is and how great His love is for us. The lawyer was not asking who his neighbor was for clarification but to justify himself. We want to be able to handle life and even salvation on our own. Jesus’ answer, in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan, is this:
If you were in a ditch dying, I would save you.
If someone passes you by, I’ll be the One to save you.
When you are stuck, I’ll save you.
When you’re wounded, I’ll save you.
When you’re broke, I’ll pay your debt you can’t pay.
I’ll return to you.
Jesus asks the lawyer, “Which … proved to be a neighbor?” Which is the authentic one, the one who is truly good? The lawyer answered rightly, “The one who showed him mercy.”
“And Jesus said to him, ‘You go and do likewise.’”
While I was researching our town, my prayer was not that I could love those around me. My prayer sounded a little more like this:
“Lord, I really want to love my neighbors. We have great neighbors now. I want great neighbors there. After all, I need really great ones, so I can be a great person and be able to keep that commandment of Yours about loving my neighbor. So, essentially Lord, help me justify myself. AMEN.”
My prayer was that life would be easy with people.
But the reality is … I’m a people, and Jesus picks me up out of the ditch of my thoughts and my words and my actions, each and every day.
He paid all my debts.
He bandages all my wounds.
He has done it all and He even opens my eyes so I can see those people traveling on the road alongside me.
In the story Jesus tells, it is clear we don’t pick our neighbors. We don’t hear many details about the man who is in the ditch. We do not know who he is, where he’s from, his occupation, his temperament, or his religion. Our ability to help is not contingent on these factors.
Loving our neighbors is not about loving the people who are easy to love. I fail at loving. I fail at loving the people in my own home. I fail at loving the neighbors next to me, the neighbors I haven’t met yet, and the neighbors who love me well.
Loving our neighbors has a lot less to do with who they are and everything to do with who Jesus is.
Jesus doesn’t care who or what we look like:
He binds up our wounds.
He anoints us with oil.
He provides us with bread and wine.
He places us on His shoulders.
He pays our debts on the cross.
He promises to come back for us.
Who are your neighbors — the broken, the bruised, the priestly, the Samaritan, the just, the unjust? We don’t pick our neighbors, but Jesus picked us so we can love the people God has placed on our roads, our paths, our ditches, or … yes, our neighborhoods.
Up Next - Speedbumps for Jesus
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