On faith: The blessing of a good neighbor
By: Rev. Joseph Whiting, Grace Baptist Church, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
Have you thanked the Lord for your neighbors? Maybe you live in an apartment where you hear every noise each neighbor makes? Maybe you live in a rural area where you are awakened by the crowing of the neighbor’s rooster. Or maybe you’re somewhere in-between with the neighbor’s house just beyond the hydrangea bushes.
The words neighbor and neighbors occur 163 times in the Scriptures. The term basically describes someone who is near you. God has a lot to say about our behavior toward our neighbors. In the Old Testament we learn what not to do to our neighbors (don’t covet his property, bear false witness against him, move his boundary markers, oppress him, or endanger his life). In the New Testament, Jesus summarizes all those teachings about how to treat our neighbors with the words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders narrowly defined a neighbor as a relative or fellow Jew. Jesus corrected this definition by telling them the story of the Good Samaritan where we learn that a neighbor is anyone who happens to cross our path.
Here in Lake County, I have been blessed with good neighbors. This week, our neighborhood lost a good friend. I use the term “neighborhood” loosely since our community is not much more than a collection of about eight homes on a mile long stretch of gravel road outside of town. However, compared to the densely populated city neighborhoods I lived in on the east coast, our little community outside of town has a lot going for it.
In our neck of the woods, the trees are tall, the wildlife is abundant and the well water tastes great. However, the best thing about our stretch of road is the neighbors themselves. Good neighbors take the time to know each other and help each other out. Sometimes city life makes it hard to get to know your neighbors. People are just too busy. Recently, I visited a friend who lived in a large housing development, and I asked him about his neighbors. I was surprised to learn that my friend did not even know his neighbors though they had lived next door to each other for years. Good neighbors have good relationships with one another. I’m thankful for spontaneous visits from our neighbors and their dogs, their helpful advice about living up north, the homemade goodies, their willingness to watch our house and feed the chickens when we’re gone, and of course, the generous provision of a cup of sugar or a few eggs when we’ve run out.
Sadly, we lost one of our neighbors this week. His obituary appears in this week’s newspaper. Butch was a man who enjoyed simple pleasures. A mowed lawn. A well-stacked woodpile. A warm house. Ducks in his pond. Venison in his freezer. Pipe in his teeth. He loved the fall, the Packers and the shack. When my family moved in next door to him six summers ago, he and his wife welcomed us strangers and made friends with us. I’ve enjoyed many chats with him about the latest news, the price of gas, the severity of the oncoming winter, the best sources of firewood and his trust in the Lord. The neighborhood along the gravel road will not be the same without him.
I believe God is pleased when we treat those around us with mutual love and respect. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said. May God bring us all to a greater awareness of the people He has placed around us so that we may love them as He loves them.
Rev. Joseph Whiting is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Two Harbors.