Neighbors are Those Whom we Serve

Neighbors are Those Whom we Serve
Alex Langley
Have you ever had a really bad day?  Is that a silly question?  You remember it well.  Nothing went right, you had too much to do, and not enough time.  Maybe it went something like this…

annoyed-at-phone

You just sat down to work on the first of two huge papers due the next day. Then a friend called.
<ugg!!>
At first you were irritated because you didn’t have time for chit-chat. Then the phone rings again.
‘Couldn’t he have just sent a text message?’  <sigh>
Still, you answered the call, and your friend said “Hey, I was just thinking about you.  Haven’t seen you in a while.  How are you doing?”
This was a good friend, and you knew he could handle the “truth,” so you vented, and let it all out.  Your friend listened.  Your friend encouraged you.  You felt better.
“Thanks for the call.  I have to get back to these papers.  Later!”
Without realizing it, as soon as you finished talking to your friend, you had a renewed sense of “I can do this!” and you cranked out both papers in record time.  They were awesome!  You uploaded your papers for submission with hours to spare, and decided to go out and grab a bite to eat.  You were starving.
As you walk over to the nearby sandwich shop, you see a scraggly looking man, long hair, sun-parched face, sitting the ground, missing a few teeth, holding a sign that says “Hungry.  Anything helps.  God bless.”hungry
You think to yourself  “Oh no.  I don’t have time for this.  I know what I should do.  But I’m hungry!  I’m tired!  How inconvenient.”  You try to look away, pretend you don’t see him.  But you look at him again.  You sigh and then walk over to him and say “You’re hungry?  I’m going to the sandwich shop.   What can I get for you?”  A few minutes later you come back to the poor man and hand him his sandwich.  He looks you in the eye and says, “I love you,” and a shiver crawls up your spine.  You immediately picture Christ on the Cross.  You smile awkwardly at him, and then you walk home.
You have just read a story about three neighbors.  “Wait…three?” you ask.  There was just the stressed out student and the homeless man.  Who was the third?

good_samaritan_poster

There are two possible answers to that question.  Let’s consider the simpler answer first.  If you recall what Jesus said about how you treat “the least of these”  in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46), we can see that the third neighbor was the Lord, himself.
And upon further reflection, it would also be appropriate to recognize the first helper, the friend who called “at the wrong time”, was also a neighbor.  Why might this be?
We all have needs.  We all have bad days.  Failures.  Frustrations.  Illness.  When you help another, you “Pay It Forward”, spreading good to others, that ultimately will come back to bless you down the road when you need it. We human beings are all part of one Creation, one System.  We are all connected,  (1 Corinthians 12:12), and therefore, we are all neighbors.  Do you agree?
So, who is my neighbor?  Is it the people that live next door to me?  Yes, of course, they are my neighbors.  Are my roommates neighbors?  Yes, of course.  Are my teachers, fellow students, and coworkers my neighbors?  Yes.  Of course.
In fact, every person you meet in your life is your neighbor.

Young Man and Woman Giving Food and Water to Homeless Man

Ken Blanchard, author of “One Minute Manager”, once gave a talk to a group of students at Biola University called “Lead Like Jesus.”  (Search Youtube for that video.  It’s excellent.)  One of the key things he said was that your neighbor is the person near you whom you can serve.  
In both the Mosaic Law, and in Christ’s fulfillment of that Law, we have this second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39)  Certainly the Lord did not just mean the people whose homes are right next to yours.  That’s where it starts, just beyond your doorstep.  Even your roommates are your neighbors, whether they are your best
friends or merely acquaintances.  If you are married, your first neighbor is your spouse.  If you have children, you know they are your neighbors, and much more.  Any person who is near you, you can serve.  That is your neighbor.
Sometimes loving your “neighbor” can be a challenge.  Have you ever wished your neighbor wasn’t your neighbor?  It’s ok to say “yes.”  It happens.  We have moments, or even seasons of weakness during which we feel we have nothing to offer.  Or we are just so tired, or maybe bitter, that we choose not to recognize anyone else as a neighbor.  When that happens, try a simple act of service to another person to help you snap out of that funk.

neighbor

By God’s grace, someone may come alongside you and see you as their neighbor, and cheer you up, help you in a practical way, and then they move on.  And so do you, moving on to find the very next neighbor on your path in this life, who is Jesus to you, and you are Jesus to them.
May God grant you the grace to love every single neighbor you encounter as yourself.

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