Are you frustrated with people who don’t seem to care about people? Let’s talk about loving our neighbor and who that person might be.
Step out of where you live and look straight ahead and to your left and your right. Presto bingo! You probably have neighbors — even if you live on a farm in the middle of a big plot of land, you have neighbors. We all do! Start there.
Now, let’s look around at the people who are nearby and involved in our day-to-day lives. That is what I picture when I think of the word neighbor. But that list can expand to co-workers, the people we volunteer next to or go to church with. The coffee barista, the server, the salespeople we encounter during the week. These folks are our neighbors.
When I was growing up in Ohio, we were on a space of land that didn’t have immediate neighbors around the house like I think of a traditional neighborhood. I had always wished we did. When we lived in Nebraska, we lived in a neighborhood that had a yearly block party. That was very new concept to me and I loved it! We had amazing neighbors, some we are still good friends with today!
If you really want to love your neighbor, you can be very literal about it and start with the people across the street or on either side of you. If you live in a duplex or apartment complex, it is probably easier to be annoyed with your neighbors than to love them, but you are called to love. Start somewhere. Take the lead. Maybe you are the one who most recently moved in to your home and would have loved to been welcomed into the neighborhood but weren’t — show love to your neighbors anyway. Sometimes loving means taking the first step in a relationship!
Love your neighbor. You are welcome to expand on the definition of neighbor to include the whole world. That totally works too. Just remember there are a lot of people that need love and grace in this world and they are often right next to you in line, running the cash register, in your office space. As you practice extending love to those you bump into on a regular basis God will surely expand your opportunities to extend love and grace to a greater radius!
If everyone loves their neighbors, the whole world will be a different place!
There are times I associate peace with quiet. Or nature. Or alone time. But when I really am looking for true peace, I can only get it from God.
I see what is going on the world. I see what is happening in my community. I know my own struggles. I also know that there are many things out of my control. There is so much sadness, anger, death, disease, and destruction. There is evil in the world. There has been evil in the world for a very long time. If I dwell on all of that for too long, I can become anxious. But I remind myself I can only do one day at a time. And I ask God to help me; to breathe in and through this day and let me see the opportunities that are most beneficial for those around me. While it would be nice to cocoon and only deal with my own life, I know I am called to step out of my comfort zone and share His peace with others with a cup of cold water or words of comfort. Some days, it is just a matter of surviving the day. I pray God will guard my heart when there is turmoil — whether internal or external.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
I don’t know that perfect peace is achievable this side of Heaven. But I do know that the comfort of knowing Jesus has wiped away the sin that plagues me and the promise of salvation gives me a peace like no other.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:27-29 NIV
In the midst of stress, confusion, and intensity I feel safe and at peace.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11
The moments of joy float in and out of my day. And sometimes the weight of the world and the day set in and try to steal my capacity for joy. Unfortunately, I can be a reactor to my immediate circumstances instead of looking at the big picture and God’s work in and through all of it.
When I am in the midst of a joy-less moment, I try to remember to think, “Lord, I can’t wait to see what you do with this!” If I don’t dwell on my circumstances and I just keep moving forward, time will pass and I will soon realize that I have made it through the muck and mire to a new place, a place where there is more.
More true joy!
There is no law against it!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
I suspect that those easy things to love can come from within me. I can be nice. I can be pleasant. I can even be tolerant.
We are all unloveable at times, especially myself. And when I am in a situation that goes beyond my own ability and strength to love, I know that I am tapping into God’s resources. It is then I know I am getting to that “true love”. It goes beyond my own limitations and comes directly from the heart of God. When I rely on my own capacity for love, I will fall short every time.
A lack of love in one’s life might explain unloving and ugly behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it. We have opportunities each day to show love to those around us in both simple and complex ways. Even though it is easy and requires little effort, let’s not just love the loveable. That isn’t very challenging — it doesn’t demonstrate God’s ability to transform our hearts and expand our capabilities. God’s love, through us, enlarges our hearts. And this is the love the world needs!
There are times I get stuck in negative thought patterns but I am generally a hope-full person. I don’t know if it is a part of my personality or if it is intertwined with faith and trust in God or a combination of all of that. I am thankful for my optimistic perspective. In spite of what is going on around me, I know God will work it out. It might take effort on my part. It might take a new look at my circumstances, but I trust God. I have seen Him work in my life before and I know He can take some pretty ugly things and transform them to serve a greater purpose.
Even though we live life on Earth with all of its beauty and tragedy and fragility and complications, it is such a comfort for me to know the grave is not the end. The older I get, the more difficult things I see happening around me and the more quickly I surrender my agenda.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 ESV
Have you read through Hebrew 11? Here is a snippet:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous…
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about God or believe in Him and His love and provision for me even though we didn’t always go to church when I was growing up. Part of that was because my mom was very discouraged and frustrated by the political games that happened within the church.
Hmmm. That sounds familiar!
But I haven’t really had an issue with God. Life hasn’t always been easy but and yet He has always been there for me. And yet, I haven’t always behaved like a child of God! I have had times I deliberately did the wrong thing, the ugly thing. And still I never questioned God’s love for me.
By the same token, when ugly things happened TO me, I never wondered where God was in the situation. I never thought He was behind evil nor did I blame Him for allowing evil to cross my path. It just feels like I have always known that He will right every wrong — and that He will transform me, if not my circumstance, and that it will all work together for good — eventually.
I am so thankful for this faith. I don’t know how I would have survived so far without it. But even more important is God’s faithfulness! Clearly, I have not always been faithful. But He always is. I can rest in His faithfulness!
Do you have a friend you can call on to refresh your heart? That person who can listen and encourage you when the day, week, or month has been more than you can bare?
There is nothing like a friend who hears your circumstance, will pray for you, and tell you the truth about God’s love! It is so essential for my heart! My circumstances may remain but a good friend helps me see beyond the situation and, hopefully, can help me see a Kingdom perspective.
A friend like this is a treasure. And if you have one, hold tight! They are worth more than their weight in gold.
Thank you, Father, for blessing me with amazing friends. When I lose my way or lose sight of You, I am thankful they will help me see You and the work You are doing in my life!