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Lessons From Animals--"Neighbor"

"Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."
Romans 15:2

 

Every day I walk past the outside deck of one of my neighbors, who lives on the bottom floor. Not long after I moved here, I noticed that they had a cat. She was cute, but she was also skittish--every time she saw me coming, she would run away. I would sometimes stop and try to coax her into coming over and letting me pet her, but she would have none of it. I even offered her some treats a couple times; she was definitely interested, but she also waited until I had left before she would partake. Try as I might, it seemed that I would never become friends with this neighbor.

My friendly neighborUntil, oddly enough, one day out of the blue when she saw me getting out of my car. She actually came running to see me! I was carrying sacks of groceries at the time; I put them down, and she not only let me pet her, but she was absolutely enthralled to see me. When I tried to walk away, she ran in front of me and plopped down in my path. How in the world did this drastic change come about? I soon saw what had happened: she had been accidentally locked out of her house. And suddenly I, this stranger whom she had avoided all this time, became a friendly, neighborly face. And you should see her now! When I come walking along, she runs to see me. In fact, not only has she started following me all the way up to my front door (on the third story, no less)--but one of her owners even asked if I would be interested in keeping her! I declined, though it would have been a joy. We've really become good friends.

The Bible says a lot about how our relationships with our neighbors should be. Leviticus warns us not to be deceitful or to defraud our neighbors. Leviticus 18:19b commands us, "Love your neighbor as yourself"--and it quickly became a foundational verse. James 2:8 says, "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right." Galatians 5:14 tells us, "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Jesus Himself said that, along with the command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5), loving your neighbor means: "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34), "Do this and you will live" (Luke 10:28), and "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

You can see how important it is to show love to our neighbor. In Luke 10:29, a man wanted to make sure he clearly understood the issue, asking, "And who is my neighbor?" It was in response to this question that Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a hated Samaritan shows mercy to someone who had fallen under hard times. In other words, our neighbor is everyone--we should love everyone.

Alas, sometimes it's easier said than done. But if nothing else, remember two things. First, it is the Lord's command. And second, think about this cat--my own neighbor. This little creature wouldn't give me the time of day, no matter how hard I tried. But then one day the poor thing needed help--and saw in me the face of a neighbor. You may never now how powerful a witness simple neighborly conduct can be. But consider 1 Peter 2:12--"Live such good lives among non-believers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

Be a neighbor--love those around you. Your actions may have eternal echoes.

 

In Christ,

 

--Pastor Dan

 

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