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Christians and Their Neighbors

(Proverbs 3:27-35; 14:21)

Lesson 7 -- third quarter 1998
July 19, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

"Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off" (Proverbs 27:10). I wonder if any of my neighbors would say that of me. I mean my neighbors in the houses around the place where I live. None of them go to my church, though some of them do go to other churches. Should that make any difference at all?

Good neighbors are there. A major insurance corporation has made that concept its slogan -- but they do it for a business return. I want my neighbors to be dependable and trustworthy, available when I need their help. Is that how they perceive me, though? They should know that I will gladly and willingly help them in any way I can. But how shall they know unless I show them? And how shall I show them?

Good neighbors watch out for each other. Many neighborhoods across the USA display signs proclaiming themselves a certain type of community, and get their message across visually with a detective-looking fellow as their logo. This type of neighbor isn't just there, waiting to be called on for help. He is on the lookout. As a Christian neighbor I should be alert to the needs in my community. Furthermore, I should watch for the souls of my neighbors.

Good neighbors go beyond the call of duty. Some businesses say they go the second mile for their customers -- but in reality they are doing it for themselves. The real second-miler goes beyond the call of duty for the sole good of the other, even at personal expense. In addition to that, the genuine second-miler will exceed duty even toward an adversary or toward one who has taken advantage of him. Ah, now I feel the rubber starting to meet the road! Do I really know how to give and do extra, beyond what is expected or even demanded of me, even in the face of antagonism? And can I really do it without thought of personal gain ("If I do this, maybe she will be nicer to me!")?

Only three areas in which to be neighborly, but I'm already challenged beyond my living. As you can see, I know the concept; as you might suspect, I struggle with the reality. And likely you do as well. So how shall the Christian make a better neighbor?!

Love God. Being a real good neighbor demands more of me than I can possibly deliver. But God has an incredible amount of experience in being a good neighbor. As I love Him, His love is shed abroad in my heart...and then it is shed abroad from my heart! We can easily infer from the Lord's words that our love for our neighbor flows very naturally from our love for God. In fact, Jesus very closely relates these two loves in Matthew 22:37-40. So you see, those who love make excellent neighbors -- for love is the more excellent way.

Enjoy mercy. To enjoy mercy we first need to experience mercy. But even having experienced mercy does not guarantee we will derive wholesome enjoyment from it. For this to happen we must also value mercy, considering that we do not deserve any. This kind of balanced perspective frees us to express mercy to our neighbor...which is precisely what the Lord commands (Luke 10:36,37 cf Luke 18:33)!

Gain wisdom. How can this help make me a better neighbor?! Sure, it can give me the good ideas I need and all that, but beyond that, how does wisdom help? "He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour" (Proverbs 11:12). Interesting!!

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