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Getting to Know the Neighbors

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Scripture has always been clear about how we deal with our neighbors. And, as He often did, Jesus redefined our words. He said “neighbor” was not just the person next door, but everyone you encounter

With the news events unfolding over the past two weeks, people are asking—well, at least wondering—this question: “Who is my neighbor? Am I missing something horrible going on in my neighborhood?” I read one story about a pastor who was going through his subdivision, knocking on doors, just introducing himself to his neighbors. Was his motive to find bad guys? Likely not, he was just compelled to take some sort of pro-activity. 

It would actually be easy these days to become paranoid and begin to assume anyone we don’t know well is likely up to no good, maybe even pure evil. But wait . . . quite a few people said, “I knew this guy and he seemed very normal. I had no idea he was capable of this.” So then we start to suspect even those who appear normal, thinking the normalcy is just a disguise. Crazy, huh? 

As Christians, God never wants us back on our heels, reacting on impulse, being on the defensive with the culture. Jesus certainly never was. 

Scripture has always been clear about how we deal with our neighbors. And, as He often did, Jesus redefined our words. He said “neighbor” was not just the person next door, but everyone you encounter. Your neighbor at the office sharing the copier; Your neighbor at the grocery store sharing the aisle; Your neighbor at church on the same pew; Your neighbor three doors down, around the corner, even the next block. 

So, in light of recent horrific events, how do we respond as Christians? 

1. Love God and love people. 

Simple, but still just as true today. Love is involved, not isolated. Love is engaged, not retreating. Love is active, not passive. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:30-32 NIV 

2. Don’t look the other way. Pay attention. 

There are so many circumstances today that could have been stopped had someone just acted on their instinct, gut, or the still, small voice. Maybe not all; but certainly some. 

“I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all around you. Be wise like snakes and gentle like doves. —Matthew 10:16 NLV 

3. Live as a victor, not a victim. 

As our world culture takes on more and more of a victim mentality, this creates an “every man for himself” mindset. Our isolationism quickly overrides our activism. In the end, we win, so we have every opportunity to live, think, and act like it. 

Victors change the outcome of the game, while victims complain about the rules and the score. 

Victors get involved, risking offense, while victims stay out, assuming people deserve what they get. 

Victors impact the culture, while victims are absorbed in it.

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. —1 John 5:4 NLT

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