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What About My Neighbor?

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One of the basic instructions that the Lord had for his people is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

Listen, Israel, The LORD our God, The LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The command to love the LORD wholeheartedly entails sharing his love with others. Thus God had earlier told them to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:15). He reinforced these words by reminding them that these were not simply idle instructions but given by his authority (“I am the LORD”) and therefore in accordance with his own standards. Not only were these instructions for their fellow Israelites but for others. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are expressed by Jesus during his earthly ministry (e.g., Mt. 19:18-19; cf. Luke 10:27).

Such love included the desire to pray for them; yes, for both the friendly and good, and also for those who treated them poorly, even wickedly (Mt. 5:43). Jesus terms such love as a “royal law” (cf. James 2:8). Indeed, when a scribe asked him as to which of the commandments was “The most important of all,” such is part of what Jesus calls the “most important”:

Listen, Israel, The LORD, our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your “God with all your heart. …Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:28-30).

A righteous person plans no harm for his neighbor: each one of us must please his neighbor for his good in order to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me” (Rom. 15:2-3). Such entails having no hard feelings against one’s neighbors (cf. Lev. 19:18). It is John Calvin, perhaps, who gives the most reasonable explanation of the underlying value of the thought expressed here: “What every man ought to be towards his neighbor could not be expressed in many pages than in this one sentence.”1 Wise people do not deride their neighbors, even if insulted by them, and do not answer them in kind. As Waltke points out, “The wise hold themselves in check because they love their neighbor. And do not harbor hatred in their hearts.”2 Indeed, it is a bad person who derides his neighbor and thus leads him or her to despair (cf. Ps. 31:11-13). How sad it is for the ridiculed neighbor! Could it be that as the psalmist laments it is because of a person’s sinfulness (v.10)? Nevertheless, the psalmist’s lament is instructive for all. We should be those who, despite being persecuted experience God’s grace and maintain a blameless walk before the Lord (cf. Ps. 138:7). Nor should a a person seek to avenge himself if his neighbor has done him wrong or harm (Prov. 24:28).Rather, he should maintain his righteous conduct in every way.

Indeed, a good neighbor neither plots against his neighbor (Prov. 3:29) nor declines one who asks for his help:

When it is in your power, don’t withhold good
From the one to whom it is due.
Don’t say to your neighbor,
“Go away! Come back later.
I’ll give it tomorrow”— when it is there with you. (Prov. 3:27-28)

Yes, deriding, avenging, or taking advantage of one’s neighbor—all of these are sinful (Prov. 14:21; 25:18). The righteous person should be patient in the midst of being derided or persecuted, remembering that the LORD “is a friend to the upright. Quite the contrary, good neighbors are those who must not “Plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you” (Prov. 3:29; cf. v. 32). Moreover, the righteous person should bear in mind that such things as deriding or defrauding one’s neighbor “offends the LORD” and are sinful and insulting to the LORD (Lev. 6:2). Despite any provocation, people are to speak truthfully and courteously to and concerning their neighbors (cf. Ezek. 4: 25-27). So much is this true that rather than being envious or jealous of the success of one’s neighbors, a good neighbor will rejoice with him (cf. Luke 15:8-9). Indeed, as Jesus taught, There is even “Joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents” (v.10). A good neighbor is not envious, but will, “Please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up” (Rom. 15:2).

The basic underlying truth and lesson in all of this reminds us of the Lord’s great commandment as expressed by Paul: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9). Paul told the Galatians the same scriptural truth while reminding them to “serve one another through love” (Gal. 5:13; cf. also v. 14). An interesting variation in all of this is that even in blessing one’s neighbor a person should do it truthfully and not as a mere joke, for this is intentional deception (Prov. 26:19).3

A great example of being a ready and available good “neighbor: regardless where you are or with whom you encounter is found in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:28-37). In this story of a wounded Jewish man who lay on the ground because of bandits, a priest and a Levite pass by on the other side because of their religious code. A Samaritan, however, stopped and tended to his needs, even though Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Nevertheless, the Samaritan, being full of compassion and concern for the poor and needy, was determined to help his fellow human being a feeling that stimulated his actions. His actions serve a good lesson for all of us: “When we show mercy to others, God will have mercy on us.”4 As Allison Trites points out “Our faith in God is to be authentic, must be one that expresses itself in loving concern and helpfulness to our fellows.”5 The Samaritan, rather than acting as a despised foreigner, acted as a man with a concern, which only God could provide. May we all enjoy and utilize such a faith and concern for others.

In all of this we see the secret to true strength so as to meet life’s challenges. It is supplied in spiritual strength, which comes through faith in God and keeping God’s standards (cf. Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Pet. 5:9-10). In gaining this we enjoy the pleasure of God’s presence and the strength he supplies.6 Above all, may we be those who strive to walk worthy before the Lord. When we do, Christ is virtually seen in our lives and actions. If all of this is true and reflected in our walk and talk, we shall have a genuine concern for our neighbor, which will be evident to all.

The song writer reminds us to:

Walk worthy of the Lord,
Come give your heart to Christ;
Live always bearing fruit for Him,
Live strengthened by His might.
Walk worthy of the Lord,
All power to His name;
Give Him glory,
Give Him honor,
Walk worthy of the Lord.

1 Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 19790, 269.

2 Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs; Chapters 1-15 in The New International Commentary( n.d.),494

3 See further, Duane A. Garret, “Proverbs,” in Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press,1993), 219.

4 Grace For Today (Christian Art Gifts, 2008), August, 2008.

5 Allison A. Trites, “The Gospel of Luke”, in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale House, 2006) 171

6 See further my remarks in “The Pleasure of His Presence,” Biblical Studies Press (2009), 10-11)

Related Topics: Christian Life, Love

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