My Neighborhood

I can tell you right now that I have failed with all the author of 100 Days to Brave put in her devotion today. I have not loved my neighbor as Jesus says to in Mark 12:31. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” This devotion talks about how we can take this verse to mean more people than just the people in our immediate neighborhood, and I do think I do a better job with that one, but, in my immediate neighborhood, no.

Why? I am not trying to make excuses, but let me explain the particulars of my living situation. Ever since we decided to homeschool and get by with just one income, we’ve lived in places that would be considered non-permanent–apartments, town homes and rental homes. And we’ve lived an itinerant lifestyle–going from place to place for the jobs. Being a naturally private person and not being sure how long I would be in a place has made me hesitant to make attachments in our neighborhoods.

Now, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been pleasant when we’ve crossed someone’s path. It doesn’t mean we haven’t taken care of the places where we’ve lived. (Yes, renters are judged because it is assumed they won’t stay long enough to care about their neighborhoods.) I’ve had conversations with my neighbors about the weather, about their pets, and about how nice it is we have a pool for the hot summers here. Topics that are more surface topics than anything else.

But, I haven’t let very many of them in. And I think I’ve finally figured out why. It’s because of my “moving from place to place” lifestyle. It’s what I experienced as a child, and it’s what I’ve had to deal with as an adult. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all the places I’ve seen. I appreciate the opportunities my husband has had to have good jobs in different places. The opportunity to see so many different places in this vast country of mine. Having roots has almost become a lost ideal for the generation coming up behind me. With relocation being relatively easy nowadays, it makes sense to follow the jobs, right? It makes sense to live in a town other than the one you grew up in (if you grew up in just one town), right?

But, why do I still long for roots? How do I get to know my neighbors and plant roots when it is  likely I won’t be in one place for a long time? Is buying a home the only way to put roots down in a neighborhood? Some people would say it is and would stare at you in judgment if you didn’t.

Society has changed though, and I think we, as Christians, me especially, have to do a better job of being present in our neighborhoods even if our neighborhood is an apartment complex. Like the author says, “You can be brave enough to see those people around you, rather than just passing by. You can be brave enough to serve them and love them, and God will use you, friend. You will be living out your mission as a light in this dark world.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

I can and should be brave enough to get to know my neighbors even if they only live near me for six months or a year. I can be brave enough to be God’s light and share my reason and my hope with my neighbors even if I only know them for a short time. Who knows? By being God’s light here, I might end up spending eternity with them, and isn’t that what really matters?

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Who is my Neighbor?

For the last several weeks, there have been tensions among different groups in the United States. Slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” have come to the forefront. With it being an election year, it could also be said that the media has had a part in fanning tensions. This post is not meant to be a political post though and does not give my opinion on who is right or who is wrong. It is more how my thinking about this topic has personally impacted me and how a sermon I heard yesterday impacted me as well.

Who is my neighbor? Jesus had a lot to say about that, and it was very different from what establishment Judaism thought. Like I have said in previous posts, most Jews during that time loved people who were most like them. Isn’t that what we do today? We love and care about the people who are most like us, and we are afraid of those who are different.

Jesus wasn’t like that at all though, and there are many stories in the New Testament that demonstrate this. The one I want to tell today is about the Good Samaritan. A teacher of the law, trying to trap Jesus, asked Him who his neighbor was after correctly stating what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. (Luke 10:27) The next verses tell the story.

“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”  (Luke 10:30-37)

The point of this story is that the person who helped the injured man was the one who was most unlike him. There was no love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans. The people of that day would have understood the point Jesus was trying to make. But, do we? Do we have the courage to overcome our fears and show Jesus to the ones who are most unlike us?

I don’t know. I will be fully transparent and tell you I don’t have a lot of courage on my own. There are things I know I should do that I don’t do, and there are things I don’t do that I know I should do. Any demonstration of my faith is a result of Jesus being in me, plain and simple. He is the one who gives me the courage to overcome my fears, and He is the one I need to go to when life overwhelms me.

Now that I’ve said all that, it’s time to go to the practical example or the story of how this relates to me. I almost don’t want to share this with you because it’s something that’s in the deepest recesses of my heart. But, that’s where God has been working so share it I will. There are some women in my life who make me feel inadequate, make me feel like I don’t quite measure up. Women who make me feel like the least of God’s daughters. They have characteristics that I associate with true womanhood whereas the characteristics I have and the things I like are not often associated with true womanhood. At least they’re not in this world.

Anyway, this morning, during my devotion, a thought came to me, and I knew it was from God. He said I needed to pray for these women, pray for His presence in their lives, pray for Him to bless them. The whole nine yards. I was like, ‘No, God. They think I’m stupid. I’m nothing like them, and they’re only nice to me because they have to be.’ And then He said the convicting words. ‘Do you mean it when you say you want to be my child? Do you mean it when you say you want to show my light? I will give you courage, daughter. In return, I ask for this from you. Your worth is in what I think of you. Nothing else. And I loved you enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for you. That is enough.’ It eased my heart and gave me courage. Then I did what God had asked of me. I prayed for these women.

Maybe that’s what we need to do first. Maybe we should pray for the people who are different from us. And after we have prayed and received God’s guidance, maybe we will gain the courage to approach these people and actually have relationships with them despite the differences. Because, after all, God does love ALL of us–loves us enough that He sent His Son to die on a cross for us.

God’s blessings on all of you today!